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Emory and Grady research peer recovery coaching support for individuals with substance use disorders
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Janet Christenbury
Emory Media Relations
Danielle Hackett
Grady Media Relations
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Emory University researchers will study different methods of peer recovery coaching in patients with substance use disorders who come to Grady's emergency room for care.

ATLANTA – In light of the ongoing opioid epidemic, Emory University researchers are testing a new support service for those with substance use disorders who visit Grady Memorial Hospital’s emergency department (ED). Through a three-year, $2.2 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a new peer recovery coaching program will be offered to patients with substance use disorder (SUD)-related conditions to learn more about recovery resources following treatment.

“Peer recovery coaches are individuals in long-term recovery with specialized training, who through shared experience offer motivational interviewing and linkage to resources according to the needs and desires of the individual,” says Joseph Carpenter, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Emory, emergency medicine physician at Grady and principal investigator of the grant/study.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a part of the National Institutes of Health, more than 106,000 people in the U.S. died from drug-involved overdoses in 2021, including prescription opioids and illicit drugs.

“Overdose deaths have increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, disproportionately impacting those already at high risk,” says Carpenter. “However, according to the literature, less than one-third of 8.3 million people living with an illicit drug use disorder in 2019 reported receiving treatment.”

Carpenter goes on to say that emergency room visits mark an increasingly recognized opportunity to screen for substance use disorders, initiate treatment and provide necessary connections to further care and resources.

The CDC awarded the grant for peer recovery coaching support to Emory’s Department of Emergency Medicine and the Injury Prevention Research Center at Emory University (IPRCE), and in collaboration with the Georgia Council for Recovery.

The study, called LINCS UP or Linking Individuals Needing Care for Substance Use Disorders in Urban Emergency Departments to Peer Coaches, will be offered through three randomized treatment arms: in-person peer coaching with connections to recovery support services, telerecovery-based peer coaching with support connections, or standard care with a list of community recovery resources provided to participants but no peer coaching. Four peer recovery coaches have been hired thus far through the program.

“By utilizing telerecovery as a peer coaching option, this model will be rapidly scalable and can be readily implemented at other facilities,” says Nicholas Giordano, PhD, RN, assistant professor in the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University, chair of the IPRCE Drug Safety Task Force and a co-investigator on the grant.

Researchers hope to enroll hundreds of participants in the LINCS UP study over the next three years at Grady, Atlanta’s only Level I Trauma Center. As part of the study design, study coordinators will check in with participants at seven, 30 and 90 days after the initial ED visit to determine if they have successfully linked to formal addiction treatment. Emory faculty members from its School of Medicine, School of Nursing and Rollins School of Public Health will collaborate on this research study and its findings.

“The emergency room is often the location many individuals with substance use disorders visit during a time of crisis,” says Jonathan Rupp, PhD, associate professor of emergency medicine at Emory and director of IPRCE. “By offering both in-person and virtual peer recovery coaching approaches, and comparing that to standard care, we can facilitate conversations with individuals to find their ideal pathway to recovery and linkage to important resources.”

This research is supported by the CDC under award number RFA-CE-21-002 and can be found under the study name LINCS UP (NCT05847621) on Enrollment in the clinical trial will begin soon.

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