New Hospital Bridge Program Provides Peer Counseling for Addiction

February 17th, 2020

Oftentimes, people struggling with addiction go back to old habits immediately after being helped by rescue personnel or in emergency rooms, ignoring the pleas of doctors and nurses to get additional help.

However, someone who has gone through similar experiences – someone who has been there, done that, bottomed out – may be more likely to get through.

That’s the idea behind the new Hospital Bridge Program, a collaboration between DLC, Physicians Regional Medical Center (PRMC), and NCH Healthcare System (NCH), and funded by a grant from the Florida Department of Children and Families.

The Bridge program provides peer recovery support and outreach services to individuals experiencing substance use issues in the hospital emergency departments of PRMC and NCH. Peer support services include peer mentoring and education; recovery coaching; referral and linkage to treatment services; and assistance with coordination of services.

As someone who formerly suffered with an addiction to heroin, crack, and alcohol, Jake Ponsky (shown in the image above, at right) is now five years sober and a Peer Recovery Specialist in the Hospital Bridge Program.

“These individuals are often looking for a peer, not someone in a lab coat,” says Ponsky. “I can tell them that I used to be right where they are, and hopefully I can help. They tend to listen.”

Ponsky’s goal is to get the person into a detox or treatment program, either at one of the local medical facilities or at DLC’s Crossroads residential rehab program.

Ponsky remembers one particular client who had just about given up on life after a crushing relapse. “I was able to sit with him, feel his pain, understand, and even talk about my own relapse,” says Ponsky. “I was just trying to sow hope, telling him that I believed in him. I said, ‘We can do this together, you and I.’”

The client listened, continued with his detox and treatment, and regained his sobriety.

The Hospital Bridge Program has been implemented successfully in other parts of Florida, mostly to address the opioid epidemic. Ponsky is one of two peer specialists representing DLC in local emergency rooms.

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