Local emergency rooms to play key role in tackling drug addiction

When it comes to offering support to those who are dealing with a drug addiction, local doctors say there can never be enough help.

So when it comes to placing recovery coaches in emergency rooms, they say it’s a no-brainer.

La Crosse’s Coulee Council on Addictions received a $74,000 grant to help pair recovery coaches with opioid abusers after an overdose.

The recovery coaches, who will be at least one year into recovery themselves, will work with overdose patients after they arrive in local emergency rooms.

The coaches will then help find treatment resources and follow up with them after leaving the hospital.

When Gundersen doctor Scott Brunk started with emergency medicine 17 years ago, he says there was little to no heroin abuse.

The Heroin and Other Illicit Drugs Task Force reports 23 drug-related overdose deaths in La Crosse County in 2016.

Brunk says patients are coming in for drug overdoses on a daily basis and it’s getting harder to keep up.

That’s why he’s in full support of a system that allows crisis counselors, who once dealt with drug addiction themselves, to advocate for patients and help connect them with the proper resources on a 24/7 basis.

“You know accessing medical care can be difficult so I think a coach or a counselor that can help you find out how to get help, and get you in the right direction is helpful.”

Mayo Clinic Health System Vice President Tanner Holst says many people will get discharged from the ER directly after they’ve been stabilized, which doesn’t help solve the problem.

He says emergency room recovery coaches could potentially reduce opioid-related overdose deaths and cut back on emergency room visits.

“Some of these individuals may not be an opioid crisis but they may use the ER as a place to receive support where having a community resource like this that’s on call 24/7 potentially can really give someone a different avenue to seek treatment.”

Recovery coaches would need to be at least one year in recovery.

Coulee Council on Addictions has received 15 recovery coach applications so far.