Peer Recovery Specialists and Life Beyond Opioid Addiction

The stories of how Alex Porter and Rico Bodin became addicted to opioids might differ. For Alex, prescription drugs were easy for the then-16-year-old girl to steal from her mom’s medicine cabinet. Rico abused drugs to help escape from complex family problems. But what they now share is a recovery that includes rescuing others from the profound grip of addiction. Both Rico and Alex are peer recovery specialists at Gateway Community Services (GCS), an addiction treatment center in Jacksonville, Florida.  This year, The Florida Blue Foundation awarded GCS, a recognized leader in the treatment of addictive disorders for adults, adolescents and veterans, an additional $100,000 grant for a total of $400,000 to help fund the peer recovery program with partner St. Vincent’s Healthcare through 2022. This partnership enables peer recovery specialists access to the overdose victims St. Vincent’s treats in its three area emergency departments. Once the overdose patients are stabilized, recovery specialists can counsel both patients and their families about treatment, and life beyond opioid addiction.

We applaud St. Vincent’s for realizing that those suffering from opioid use disorder are often times more receptive to hearing about recovery from someone who can say “I’ve been there, I understand what made you turn to drugs, and I’m proof there is life beyond addiction.” In fact, Dr. Huson Gilberstadt, president of St. Vincent’s Medical Center – Riverside, attests to the profound impact Gateway’s peer recovery specialists have had not just on OUD patients, but physicians too. As an emergency medicine practitioner of 27 years, Dr. Gilberstadt knows too well the frustration of stabilizing someone who overdosed only to see them return again, sometimes several times in one day. Since the launch of the peer recovery program in November, 2017, Dr. Gilberstadt is thrilled to see that nearly two-thirds of St. Vincent’s overdose victims are choosing to go into treatment – and that his emergency room doctors are excited they can now positively impact their patients’ lives.

As a mission-driven enterprise, GuideWell is committed to tackling the opioid epidemic in Florida. Through community grants, strategic pharmacy management, physician outreach and collaboration with national experts, we hope to see more lives saved. In the coming weeks, we’ll share more about these efforts here and invite you to learn more now about our special event in Lake Nona this October.

About the Author

Kate Warnock

Kate is the social media manager for the GuideWell enterprise, and specializes in creating content that connects GuideWell with health influencers in the social space. Find her corporate podcasts on iTunes and follow her on Twitter @mkatewarnock.