Peer-based addictions support program launches at Guelph General Hospital

Guelph, ON – September 5, 2023 – Guelph General Hospital has partnered with Stonehenge Therapeutic Community to pilot the Peer2Peer Overdose Response Program in the emergency department. With this program, a peer recovery coach who has lived experience with substance use will connect directly with patients affected by drug or alcohol poisoning.

“My upbringing was very tough; I never really had a good opportunity to succeed. I started using drugs at 13-years old, that took me to prison and then to homelessness. Drugs took a lot from me, but it also gave me life. Being able to help others, where they are at right now in their journey, can only come from lived experience,” shared Brett Lomax, Peer Recovery Coach at Guelph General Hospital.

People who use substances visit the emergency department and stay in hospital more often than others. The goal of this program is to provide peer-based support to reduce harm from substance use. In connecting patients to the right care at the right time, with people who personally understand what they are experiencing, visits to the hospital can be reduced.

“Peers with lived experiences similar to those they support have a unique capacity to connect with people who are stigmatized. Through this unique connection, people are able to have more positive, respectful, and meaningful experiences when accessing care,” shared Melissa Skinner, Vice President, Patient Services and Chief Nursing Executive at Guelph General Hospital.

In the program, a peer recovery coach walks alongside a patient as they receive care in the emergency department and out into the community as they are referred to substance use services. The coach provides emotional support, drug poisoning prevention education, and information about local support.

“Peer recovery coaches provide a support like no other as they have a unique capacity to support individuals who are stigmatized because of their own experience of substance use.  They help individuals who experienced a drug poisoning to have the support they need in the moment, to navigate the health system, and to figure out next steps. This program bridges care between hospital and community,” shared Kristin Kerr, Chief Executive Officer at Stonehenge Therapeutic Community.

The Peer2Peer Overdose Response Program also operates out of Cambridge Memorial Hospital and Grand River Hospital. The pilot at Guelph General Hospital has been funded until March 2024. If successful, the partnership will look to extend this program to ensure patients continue to access this valuable service.

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Guelph General Hospital (GGH) is a dynamic, comprehensive acute care facility providing a full range of services to the residents of Guelph and Wellington County. Services include 24-hour emergency coverage, advanced technology and diagnostic support, and specialty programs. GGH is a regional provider of general vascular surgery and a designated provincial Bariatric Centre of Excellence. GGH is also a proud partner in the Guelph Wellington Ontario Health Team. Visit us online at ggh.lab.barking.ca or @guelphgeneral. 

Stonehenge Therapeutic Community is a non-profit addiction treatment agency that offers a variety of services, including a 42-bed long-term residential treatment program and a range of community-based services along the harm reduction continuum. Stonehenge provides supportive housing, addiction medicine and withdrawal services as well as community and justice programs. Stonehenge is also a proud partner in the Guelph Wellington Ontario Health Team. Visit us online at www.stonehengetc.com.

Photo caption: Brett Lomax, outside the triage trailer at Guelph General Hospital on his first official day as a peer recovery coach.

For more information, please contact: Carla Kostiak, Manager of Strategic Communications, Guelph General Hospital | Tel: 519 546 3048 | Email: ckostiak@ggh.lab.barking.ca