Peer-to-peer counseling for hospital patients struggling with alcohol and drugs is showing positive results in helping patients overcome addiction through Project Engage, a collaborative program launched in 2008 involving Christiana Care and Brandywine Counseling & Community Services.
“We want to …
put a face on this experience and show there’s hope.”
This was the hopeful message offered by two recovering addicts on Nov. 4 at the third Recovery Roundtable attended by 40 staff who met to support and strengthen Project Engage, which connects patients with community-based treatment. The roundtable sessions are hosted by Project Engage and the Department of Psychiatry.
“When patients with addiction come to the hospital, nurses and doctors see them at their worst,” said addictions counselor Lisa Gonzalez, MS, CADC, who led the roundtable. “We want to show what it’s like when people recover, put a face on this experience and show there’s hope.”
Parnel, of New Castle, said addiction was at the root of his health problems and he’d had 48 emergency room visits and 23 inpatient admissions. He was so debilitated from alcohol that the 48-yearold Parnel said he could barely walk.
During one admission, Parnel says he felt tired of being an addict and accepted the help of engagement specialist Chris Anderson, who came into his hospital room and talked about the possibility of change. At discharge, Anderson found Parnel a room at nearby Oxford House, a self-supporting drug-free home where residents work on recovery.
“Chris Anderson is my hero,” Parnel said.
It’s important to support patients choosing recovery as they transition back into the community, Anderson said. Both he and engagement specialist Sheila Walker assisted Parnel with everything from grocery shopping to regular attendance at 12-step meetings so that he would not feel defeated as he stabilized himself.
“People need extra care and coaching during this intense period of transition when frustrations can feel overwhelming,” Anderson said.
Jeff Wahl, an engagement specialist, said that with addicts there is often a small window of opportunity in the hospital when they turn toward sobriety, and it’s impossible to know when that moment will come.
“We have to continue to ask if this is the day a person is ready to change and strike as best we can,” said Wahl.
Another recovering addict, John, 33, of Wilmington said he chose recovery six months ago when he was admitted to the Emergency Department for a drug overdose. Before that John said he often thought he was a functioning addict who took care of his family.
But when Lisa Bechler, an engagement specialist, came to his room he was in the midst of withdrawal and felt so awful he was ready to plot a new course. With her help, he began methadone treatments at Brandywine Counseling & Community Services.
“If it wasn’t for Lisa getting me that appointment I don’t know where I would be,” John said. “So I want to thank her and Christiana Care.”