KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Covenant Health is working to increase access to care for patients in the emergency department as the result of an overdose or other problems caused by substance dependency.

To do this Covenant Health has worked with the Knox County Health Department to develop, implement and evaluate the peer recovery program. This program has been implemented at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in downtown Knoxville since mid-October. At the medical center’s ED, there are two peer recovery navigators from Peninsula, a division of Covenant Health’s Parkwest Medical Center. The navigators, trained professionals who have recovered from addiction, are able to connect with the patient and assist them in their recovery.

According to Mark Potts, LCSW, director of clinical services at Peninsula, the navigators “hit the ground running.”

“We’ve been there for about a month and it has exceeded our highest expectations for response. I can’t say enough about the reception that our peer recovery navigators have received from the staff at Fort Sanders Regional Emergency Department. They have been embraced with open arms and the reception of the patients coming through with those needs has also been very encouraging,” Potts said.

“A significant percentage of our patients in the emergency department are dealing with substance-related issues as the primary or secondary cause of their medical conditions,” said Fort Sanders Regional and director Ed Brock, MD. “This program places specialists in substance misuse treatment and resources directly in our ED. The peer navigators allow us to begin much more complete evaluation and support, and make more appropriate referrals to outpatient resources for these patients.”

The initiative is funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s also a part of KHCD’s newly formed Substance Misuse Response Division, which is creating many strategies to address substance misuse in Knox County.

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