St. Louis County Executive announces opioid action plan initiative

New program connects overdose patients to treatment

BERKELEY – As part of St. Louis County’s Opioid Action Plan, The Behavioral Health Network of Greater St. Louis (BHN) is starting a new program for opioid overdose patients. BHN will work directly with local Emergency Management Services (EMS) agencies and police departments to increase treatment options for people who have experienced an opioid overdose, one of the primary goals of the county’s opioid action plan.

This project is based on BHN’s Engaging Patients in Care Coordination (EPICC) project, which connects opioid overdose survivors receiving care in emergency departments with peer coaches who are themselves in recovery from a substance use disorder. These coaches provide invaluable support and link individuals to opioid treatment. Over 1,500 people have been served by EPICC since 2016, and 96 percent of patients who are engaged in the EPICC project have not experienced another overdose after three months.

“BHN’s new program deals with two major areas of focus in our Opioid Action Plan: treatment and recovery,” County Executive Steve Stenger said. “The purpose of the Opioid Action Plan is to bring partners together to combat opioid addiction and overdose. This is a perfect example of what can be accomplished when we all work together to address a public health crisis.”

Peer recovery coaches add an important dynamic to the recovery process.

“People with personal experiences of recovery are an important first line of support,” said Spring Schmidt, Director of Health Promotions and Public Health Research for the Saint Louis County Department of Public Health. “They are particularly effective at motivating individuals to seek the proper treatment while also helping people in crisis navigate the complex healthcare system.”

The new program is being funded by a $439,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Mental Health as part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) State Opioid Response Project. BHN is working with the Saint Louis County Department of Public Health to analyze public health data and target services to areas in the County facing the highest burden of opioid overdoses.

“For two years, EPICC has been a tremendous collaboration across the network of healthcare providers, including 14 hospitals spanning multiple health systems and 5 substance use treatment providers, with several peer recovery coaches who work with clients in seven Missouri counties,” said Wendy Orson, CEO of BHN. “The impact of EPICC is felt not only in the positive outcomes and improved engagement of highly vulnerable clients in need of services. EPICC also contributes to creating a stronger system of behavioral health care. We are confident this new program will build on that record.”

Fourteen hospitals from the BJC, Mercy and SSM healthcare systems are participating in the EPICC expansion.

For more information, contact the Behavioral Health Network of Greater St. Louis: 314-449- 6713.

For more information on tracking overdose burden in the region, contact Spring Schmidt at the Saint Louis County Department of Public Health: 314-615-0502 or sschmidt@stlouisco.com.

The St. Louis County Opioid Action Plan can be accessed at www.stlouisco.com/recover.