Christiana Care partners with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to educate hospitals on Project Engage

Christiana Care partners with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to educate hospitals on Project Engage

Terry Horton, M.D., FACP

Leaders with Project Engage, the exemplary early-intervention substance abuse program at Christiana Care Health System, were keynote speakers for an educational webinar on Wednesday, Nov. 9, “Health System-wide Sustainable Peer Program Best Practice,” to showcase how to launch sustainable peer recovery programs in health care systems and communities across the United States.

Hundreds of health care providers across the country registered to learn about how Christiana Care’s Project Engage model improves outcomes while reducing costs.

The webinar was facilitated by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services charged with leading public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation.

The webinar conveyed how an interdisciplinary team can partner to develop and run peer recovery programs that help individuals with substance use disorders connect to treatment and recover. The presenters shared successful factors for sustaining a systemwide peer program so that hospitals and communities can better serve individuals with the chronic disease of addiction.

Through Project Engage, health care professionals known as engagement specialists, who are peers in recovery, reach patients with substance abuse problems at the hospital bedside — at the low point of their addiction — and link them to resources in the community that put them on the path to recovery.

“Even people who have struggled with addiction for years or decades have been able to overcome their dependence on drugs and achieve optimal health because of the empathy and support from their engagement specialist,” said Terry L. Horton, M.D., FACP, chief of the Division of Addiction Medicine and creator of Project Engage. “We are grateful that SAMHSA recognizes Project Engage’s evidence-based care and has given us the opportunity to help hospitals and communities across the country learn about this special program.”

Engagement specialists through Project Engage meet with patients in the hospital who are found to have substance-use disorder and are able to successfully connect them with treatment services in the community, helping many people overcome their addiction.

For patients who are in the hospital because of an illness that may be completely unrelated to alcohol or drug use, Project Engage creates a unique opportunity for intervention and bolsters Christiana Care’s efforts to achieve medicine’s Triple Aim of improving the experience and quality of care while reducing health care costs.

Christiana Care launched Project Engage in the patient care units of Wilmington Hospital in 2008. Since then, the program has expanded throughout both hospitals, primary care practices, Women’s & Children’s services and community programs.

More than 5,000 patients have been helped through Project Engage, and research shows that individuals who have worked with a peer in recovery are significantly less likely to require readmission to the hospital. The average annual savings when engagement specialists have intervened are approximately $6,000 per patient. The program is carried out through a partnership between Christiana Care and Brandywine Counseling and Community Services, a nonprofit that provides substance abuse and mental health services.

“The first step in treating any disease is to engage the patient in treatment,” said Rita Landgraf, secretary for the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. “For people impacted by addiction, Project Engage shows how important it is to involve people with shared life experiences in order to gain their trust and support them as they begin their treatment. Peers offer that living proof that treatment does work and people do live in long-term recovery.”

The webinar was moderated by SAMHSA Region III Regional Administrator Jean Bennett, Ph.D., RN, along with Project Engage speakers Mark DeWitt Lanyon, Ph.D., ICADC, ICCDPD, LCDP, LPC, clinical program manager for Project Engage and engagement specialist Peter Booras.