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Good Sam Addresses the Opioid Epidemic

June 5th, 2018

The national opioid crisis takes thousands of lives each year and severely affects many others. To combat this growing epidemic, the high-volume Emergency Department (ED) at Good Samaritan is the site of an innovative effort. Being piloted at Good Samaritan and to be rolled out later to other CHS hospitals, the Sherpa Program guides patients and their families to much-needed resources.

“Sadly, I have cared for far too many patients with opioid-related issues when I was an emergency medicine physician,” said CHS’s Executive Vice President & Chief Clinical Officer Patrick M. O’Shaughnessy, DO, MBA, FACEP. “Unfortunately, very often these patients have repeat visits to the ED, due to either noncompliance or lack of awareness of resources. CHS decided to step up and address that gap.”

To help individuals caught in this cycle, CHS began collaborating with the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence and the Family & Children’s Association (FCA) to build an addiction treatment infrastructure on Long Island. Two goals were determined: to revisit existing ED protocols for overdose victims and to create a liaison program to connect these patients with support services. A new CHS policy was established to prevent unnecessary opioid prescriptions in the ED, and the Sherpa Program was developed by FCA.

Sherpa is a free service provided by FCA and is made up of peer recovery coaches trained to meet with overdose survivors and their families in EDs. The team directs people to treatment, offering peer and family support and follow-up. Sherpa is supported by the New York State (NYS) Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), NYS Senate and Long Island Community Foundation.

“This is an epidemic that requires everyone’s effort and attention,” explained CHS’s Chief of Emergency Medicine and Good Samaritan’s Chair of Emergency Medicine Christopher Raio, MD, who led the initiative to review ED protocols across the health system. As a result, the rate of controlled substance prescriptions for treat-and-release patients significantly declined following the discontinuation of the use of opiates in the emergency care setting. Also, with support from Suffolk County, CHS implemented a Narcan distribution program to aid at-risk individuals presenting in the ED. In addition, ED physicians are undergoing specialized training in order to initiate medication-assisted treatment, and social work coverage has been expanded at several CHS locations to offer a greater number of patients bedside counseling.

Other resources include 20 medically supervised detoxification beds and 40 adult drug and alcohol rehabilitation beds at St. Charles, plus inpatient and outpatient treatment, recovery and counseling programs at Mercy. Additionally, Maryhaven’s OASAS residences—New Hope, Mercy Hall and Recovery House—provide a range of services for Long Islanders recovering from alcohol and/or substance dependence. New Hope alumni shared their stories at a recent press conference held at Good Samaritan to underscore the necessity of the Sherpa Program.

“CHS has comprehensive inpatient and outpatient programs across Nassau and Suffolk counties to support patients and families with substance addiction,” commented CHS’s Chief of Behavioral Health Services Ronald Brenner, MD. In addition to its innovative Telepsychiatry Program serving CHS’s EDs, CHS’s Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse service line created the Central Intake Services Department in 2015 to assist patients in navigating the system, allowing easier access to these many resources.

“The Sherpa model has been used successfully in emergency departments across the country and up and down the East Coast, and this partnership with Catholic Health Services represents a first for Long Island,” said FCA’s President & Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Reynolds, PhD.

For information or referrals relating to the Sherpa Program, call (516) 747-2606. For other behavioral health services, please call (516) 705-6378.


CHS Chief of Emergency Medicine and Good Samaritan Chair of Emergency Medicine Christopher Raio (left), MD, joined CHS’s Executive Vice President & Chief Clinical Officer Patrick M. O’Shaughnessy (third from left), DO, FCA’s President & CEO Jeffrey Reynolds (fourth from left), PhD, and other community partners at a press conference introducing the Sherpa Program at Good Samaritan.