Recovery coaches to visit overdose patients at UW Hospital to fi - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Recovery coaches to visit overdose patients at UW Hospital to fight opioid epidemic

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A program bringing help to overdose survivors before they leave the hospital is expanding in Madison. 

UW Hospital is working with the organization Safe Communities. Emergency room doctors can call a recovery coach who will respond to the hospital to help the patient navigate a path to treatment. The coaches have all gone through addiction themselves.

Aly Gmeinder says when she shares her story of recovery, it helps motivate someone to make a change in their lives, too. 

"I think a lot of the challenges that I went through and experiences help me to relate to a lot of these people," she said.

Gmeinder started using heroin when she was 15-years-old. She says she wound up in the hospital after she had more than 20 overdoses, but now, at 26, she's been sober for two and a half years. 

"You're in a vulnerable position [at the hospital]. You have a lot of people telling you what you should and shouldn't be doing," Gmeinder told 27 News. "I think having a peer who's been doing the same things at some point in his or her life, you're more inclined to not take a defiant stance towards them and you really can gain trust and make a difference in that aspect where a doctor or nurse wouldn’t be able to do that."

Gmeinder says she's helped 50 to 75 people since becoming a recovery coach about a year and a half ago.

Safe Communities started this effort in 2016 with SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital, where 90 percent of patients went on to treatment. Coaches have regular communication with the patients until they get into a program. 

"Being able to address the recidivism and reach the person before they get to that point of overdosing again is our primary goal," said program coordinator Tanya Kraege. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you can visit Safe Communities' website for resources and information to get help. 

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