ThedaCare and Partners Launch ED2RECOVERY+ Program

In August 2019, ThedaCare Community Health Action Teams (CHAT) from Wild Rose and Fox Cities, hosted a plunge on Addiction. After the plunge and debrief, both the Fox Cities and Wild Rose teams identified Recovery Coaching as a strategy that would help reduce opioid addiction by encouraging people to seek treatment and avoid recidivism.

After a 2019 ThedaCare CHAT team plunge on addiction, ThedaCare is pleased to announce the Emergency Department to Recovery Plus (ED2R+) program. ThedaCare is partnering with Apricity to initially offer the program at ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin, ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah and ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano.

Offering Peer Support and Services to Inspire Success in Recovery

December 18, 2020

NEENAH, Wis. – As a health care leader, ThedaCare continues the journey toward population health, focusing on keeping people healthy rather than only treating people when they’re sick. By understanding each person’s needs, it allows individuals to be proactive in their care, to predict and prevent disease before complications arise. The journey also includes developing partnerships to better understand the needs in our area, create solutions and inspire action that leads to better health.

Every three years, ThedaCare completes a comprehensive Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) for each of the seven hospitals. In the most recent assessment, all seven plans clearly identified substance use as one of the top three health concerns in the ThedaCare service area, and this is largely driven by prescription opioids.

“While opioid hospitalizations have been on the decline for the last three years, opioid addiction continues to be on the rise, especially now as we are experiencing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Paula Morgen, Director of Community Health Improvement at ThedaCare. “According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, which tracked data on opioid-related inpatient hospital stays and emergency department (ED) visits among Wisconsin residents, from 2006 to 2016, the number of people who were discharged from emergency departments for opioid-related issues in the region quadrupled from 473 to 2,090, a fourfold increase. In 2018, that number had declined, but remains more than three times higher than a decade prior.”

ED2R+ Program Planning

In August 2019, ThedaCare Community Health Action Teams (CHAT) from Wild Rose and Fox Cities, hosted a plunge on Addiction. A plunge is a day-long event where diverse CHAT team members gather those most affected by or involved in solving an issue, and work together to share knowledge, and develop solutions for change. After the plunge and debrief, both the Fox Cities and Wild Rose teams identified Recovery Coaching as a strategy that would help reduce opioid addiction by encouraging people to seek treatment and avoid recidivism.

After months of dedicated planning, ThedaCare is pleased to announce the Emergency Department to Recovery Plus (ED2R+) program. ThedaCare is partnering with Apricity to initially offer the program at ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin, ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah and ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano.

“When we learned about the ED2R+ program and successes, we recognized the opportunity to leverage the partnerships at the table, including ThedaCare’s Emergency Departments,” said Tracey Ratzburg, ThedaCare Community Health Coordinator. “When someone comes to the ED in the middle of an addiction crisis, it is often the end of the road, they don’t know where else to go. ED2R+ offers hope and support from a peer that walked a similar journey.”

The ED2R+ program model offers peer support services by recovery coaches or certified peer support specialists. These services offer referrals, support, and follow up for treatment and recovery to individuals who have history of or experienced an opioid or stimulant overdose and are taken to the emergency department. Recovery coaches and certified peer support specialists may also offer services outside of emergency department settings including through EMT services, first responders, public health departments, probation and parole offices, law enforcement and treatment and/or recovery centers. This statewide peer support network functions as a component of the State Opioid Response. Apricity will manage the Recovery Coaches and Certified Peer Specialists for the program.

“The recovery coaches or certified peer support specialists are people who have walked the journey of recovery themselves, and can offer real life experience as peers,” explained Sadie Bodenbach, a Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor and Recovery Coach with Apricity. “Peer support is shown to offer a level of backing that increases success in recovery. It can be as simple as having someone to call when they are having a difficult day, or suggestions about speaking with loved ones about their addiction. We want those who are in the beginning stages of their recovery to have access to any resources that might support them.”

The ED2R+ program will be implemented at the Berlin, Neenah and Shawano campuses in December 2020, with a goal to expand to emergency departments at ThedaCare’s remaining four hospitals over the next two to three years. 

ThedaCare and Apricity, as partners, have received a grant to implement the program. The partners received a $100,000 grant from Wisconsin Voices for Recovery (WIVR) in the UW-Madison Department of Family Medicine and Community Health through a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Human Services. In addition to funding, WIVR provides technical assistance and expertise in implementation. Partners have also received financial support from the Fox Cities CHAT team which is led by ThedaCare.  

Support During a Pandemic

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the increasing need for recovery and mental health support has been highlighted as a critical need in our community. Morgen explained it as a “mental health shadow pandemic”.

According to the Well Being Trust and Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Primary Care, alongside the thousands of deaths from COVID-19, the growing epidemic of “deaths of despair” is increasing. As many as 75,000 more people will die from drug or alcohol misuse and suicide. For every 1% increase in unemployment rate over a year, we would lose 775 more Americans to suicide, 1,200 to overdose and increase by 10,000 those experiencing depression, anxiety and addiction.

At a local level, support organizations are also seeing the impact of the pandemic.

“The shadow pandemic is real and often hidden,” explained Ratzburg. “When we can offer the right supports at the right time, our community members benefit. ED2R+ has proven outcomes that treatment and recovery support utilization increases and overdose fatalities decrease, which strengthens our communities.”

Additional ThedaCare Resources

In addition to the ED2R+ model, ThedaCare has implemented other initiatives to address the opioid epidemic. Since 2018, the health system has worked on programs related to the opioid awareness campaign — “It only takes a little to lose a lot” – which was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The ThedaCare campaign included billboards, social media, online videos and public service announcements. Other key components of the campaign included:

  • An increase in number of providers offering medically Assisted Treatment 
  • Expansion of Sources of Strength, a school-based prevention program
  • Drop boxes at ThedaCare sites to safely dispose of unused medication

The campaign contributed to a decline in opioid-related hospitalizations and deaths across Northeast Wisconsin in 2019. It also helped drive more than 300 calls to the new Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline.

ThedaCare has also worked with partners to implement recovery coalitions, host addiction plunges and assist in securing Drug Courts in Shawano and Waupaca.

“We know it takes more than a health system to achieve better health for all of those living in Northeast and Central Wisconsin,” said Morgen. “We hope programs like ED2R+ help people define what their recovery looks like for them, creating support networks and recovery communities that help more of our community members lead productive, healthy lives.”