Bellin Health hospital offers emergency room counseling for overdose patients

Emergency room at Bellin Health hospital in Green Bay, January 30, 2018 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WLUK) -- A Green Bay hospital is taking a new approach to try to have an impact on opioid addiction.

At Bellin Health, counselors are now being used in the emergency room, to assist during an overdose.

About 110 times a day, someone seeks help at the Bellin Health Emergency Room in Green Bay. Hospital officials say about 10 percent are cases involving opioid overdose.

"It can be prescription medication, to the types of opioid, heroin, meth. The other things that we're seeing out in the community," said Laura Hieb, Bellin Health Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President.

Numbers from the State Department of Health Services indicate that in 2016, there were 827 opioid overdoses, compared to 111 in 2000.

Hieb says a new approach allows staff to call a counselor to the hospital during an identified overdose.

"We page out a recovery coach, and we get them in within 30 minutes to an hour of that time that person arrives in the emergency department," she said.

"You have to get them right away. When they get into the emergency room on opioid overdose, because once you wait five hours they're not going to want to go to treatment any more," said Mandy Suthers, DarJun Recovery Community Center.

Suthers is one of the five coaches provided by DarJun Recovery Services in Green Bay.

"We've been there. Like, we get it. We've been in the same bed you're in. We know what's about to happen," she said.

Suthers says she mixes reality with empathy to walk a fine line between the road to rejection or the road to recovery.

"The minute they walk in our doors after we have that first meet and greet in the hospital, that's a huge success. That means we planted the seed of recovery where then we can make that seed grow," she said.

The program's $80,000 cost for the year is being paid for through a grant from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the group Wisconsin Voices for Recovery.

The hope is to expand the program to other hospitals.

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