skip to main content
Main Site Navigation
Top of main content

Carle Foundation Hospital Substance Use Navigators Provide a Bridge to Recovery

Carle Foundation Hospital Substance Use Navigators Provide a Bridge to Recovery
Imagine waking up in the Emergency Department at Carle Foundation Hospital after experiencing another drug overdose. A person you never met before pulls up a chair beside your bed and casually sits down.

This friendly person not only asks how you are doing, but also shares their story of addiction and gently offers to walk with you toward recovery, provide resources and offering to be that someone you can  confide in along the way. The stranger is actually a trained Substance Use Navigator (Certified Peer Recovery Specialist) with Carle Addiction Recovery Center. There are two navigators currently supporting patients who arrive in the Urbana Emergency Department through the pilot program.

“Use of navigators is based on the California Bridge Model which bridges community health with emergency care. The navigators focus on making a human connection in a welcoming way without using stigmatizing language,” Todd Beard, MAPC, LCPC, department manager at the recovery center, said. The pilot is provided through a State Opioid Response grant.

Navigators advocate on behalf of the patient, provide community connections or resources and strive to reduce the stigma surrounding substance use to patients, families and within the health care system. Navigators also wish to reduce barriers to care and recovery. They can assist clients with other aspects of life, including paperwork for housing and working with the judicial system regarding child custody cases.

Morgan Roush, supervisor, Substance Use Navigation Program, said the in-person connection is “a moment of opportunity” to open up an entire new dialogue. “We are able to develop that rapport.”

While the navigators have been in place for just one year, already they are seeing how Certified Peer Recovery Support can benefit people battling substance abuse disorders through the provision of peer education, support, education and mentorship that continues long after hospital discharge.

One patient had 29 visits to emergency over 24 months with 17 being accidental non-fatal overdoses, but since starting medication assisted recovery treatment that individual has yet to return to the Emergency Department, Roush said. Navigators currently have a working list of clients who are successfully meeting their recovery goals since they first came in contact with a navigator in the hospital or emergency department setting. The substance use navigators have offered or provided services to more than 400 individuals since December 2022.

Navigators serve as a bridge to the next step for someone working against an addiction. Not only do they provide links to resources such as outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment, recovery homes, medical detox, methadone clinics or drug or alcohol support meetings, but navigator support can go so far as accompanying an emergency patient’s first addiction recovery meeting. Those suffering from addiction often return over and over to the Emergency Department and with the help of a navigator those individuals can break that cycle

Substance Use Navigator Anthony Welch said he battled addiction for many years and having walked the walk, he brings credibility to the many patients he talks with in the hospital setting, including the emergency department. It takes a lot of work to live a productive life with addiction but when relapses occur we are here, he said.

Navigator Darren Preston said, “No one says I want to be addicted to drugs when I get older. Once we meet them and we come back and check in the next day, they say, ‘Hey, you care.’”

Both of Preston’s parents had addictions and died before reaching middle age. He had similar predispositions, but 2024 will be his 21st year in recovery from substance abuse. “This program is life-altering,” he said. “Looking back, it would have helped me.”

Navigators must be familiar with addiction to take on the role, either as someone with at least a full year of sustained recovery or someone who had a close family member with addiction. They are not case managers, but they spend months of training in their work as a navigator and the training results in a certification from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Categories: Staying Healthy, Redefining Healthcare, Community

Tags: Carle Addiction Recovery Center, Carle Foundation Hospital, Champaign-Urbana