Pilot Program Creates New Treatment Paths

Worcester County Overdose Responsive Initiative

Pilot Program Creates New Treatment Paths

Helping Survivors of Opioid Overdoses into Treatment and Recovery

AdCare Addiction Treatment Coordinator Kate Duffy has firsthand experience with the progression of substance use and the process of recovery. Before her use of alcohol and cocaine consumed her life, Kate lived with her husband on an expansive farm in an upscale community. She was a life coach, helping others gain motivation and life skills. Today, Kate is in recovery and has been sober since April 14, 2013. She lives in Fitchburg, MA and provides on-call treatment options to survivors of opiate overdose and their families.

Kate’s role is part of a new pilot program, the Worcester County Overdose Response Initiative. The pilot program is a collaborative initiative between the Office of District Attorney Joseph Early, Jr., AdCare Hospital, the City of Fitchburg, and UMass Memorial Health Alliance Hospital. Its mission is to create new pathways to treatment for persons receiving emergency treatment for an overdose.

“My goal as a recovery coach is to encourage overdose survivors, post-resuscitation, to participate in treatment,” says Kate. “While many say no to treatment initially, most say yes to a conversation about recovery, meeting for coffee or attending a recovery group.” Over a few weeks, those conversations and meetings often produce their desired result: individuals who initially said no to any treatment, calling and asking for help.

Fitchburg Police Sergeant Matthew LeMay stressed the urgent need to not only get overdose victims to the hospital for medical follow-up, but also to have them talk with a recovery coach, such as Kate, about treatment. “When somebody overdoses, they’re at an all-time low in their life,” says Sergeant LeMay. “They’ve reached a level that’s very traumatic. We want to try to get them to the right people, to talk to people as soon as possible, and that’s what this program is all about.”

Family members play a crucial role in the decision to seek treatment after an overdose. “The best scenario, as far as folks seeking immediate treatment from the ER, happens when family members are there as well,” says Kate. “I encourage the family to take a team approach with me in supporting the person who has overdosed in seeking help, as well as agreeing to get the treatment, support, and information they need to begin the healing process of recovery.”

In addition to providing folks with options and a sense of hope at a critical juncture, Kate also maintains contact throughout the treatment continuum. For example, she is now in touch with a young man who, after completing detox, began the Intensive Outpatient Program at AdCare Outpatient Services in Worcester. The family is involved in his treatment and also participates in family counseling.

Kate’s role as recovery coach has expanded beyond meeting with overdose survivors in the ER and setting up follow-up meetings. She also rides along with police and intervenes with individuals on the street, handing out her card and letting them know help is available.

Once a week, Kate and Sgt. LeMay knock on the doors of individuals who have recently overdosed.When people open up their doors and see a police officer, even though the officer is in plain clothes, they are understandably nervous. “Once we make it clear that we’re there to offer help, most tend to open up and gratefully accept help,” says Kate. “While not every encounter results in treatment right away, people are being offered the treatment options and support they need to change their lives.”

To hear more about Fitchburg’s pilot program and its successes, watch Kate Duffy and Sergeant LeMay’s interview on Discussing Fitchburg Now! with Sam Squailia