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Rural Health Information Hub

Formerly the
Rural Assistance Center

Nurse Navigator and Recovery Specialist Outreach Program

Summary 
  • Need: To properly address and treat patients who have concurrent substance abuse and chronic healthcare issues.
  • Intervention: A referral system was created that utilizes Community Health Workers (CHWs) in a drug and alcohol treatment setting.
  • Results: This program has reduced hospital emergency visits and hospital readmissions for patients since its inception.
Evidence-level
Promising (About evidence-level criteria)
Description

Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission logo Western Pennsylvania has experienced an epidemic of heroin and opiate abuse in the past 8-10 years. As of 2014, Pennsylvania had the seventh highest drug overdose mortality rate in the U.S. The Nurse Navigator & Recovery Specialist Outreach Program was created to serve those in the counties of Armstrong, Clarion, and Indiana, Pennsylvania, who have problems with substance abuse. This program is the work of a consortium made up of the Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission (AICDAC) and 9 partners. Substance abuse and addiction can lead to many chronic health conditions and death. To address these co-occurring needs, AICDAC implemented a Care Coordinator/Manager Model framework for a program designed to reduce substance abuse, while preventing and treating chronic illnesses related to substance abuse. This model enlists the case management services of a peer Recovery Specialist and the expertise of a registered nurse (Nurse Navigator) to navigate the healthcare system and provide resources to clients.

The goal for the program is to improve clients’ perceptions of their overall health and wellness, improve coping strategies and symptom management, improve communication between the clients and their physicians and treatment providers, and reduce the number of emergency visits and hospitalizations. This is done through client education, provider education, and coordination between a client’s physical and behavioral health providers. The first use of this program was in Armstrong County. In the program’s second and third years, it expanded to the counties of Clarion and Indiana.

This program was funded by 2012-2015 Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant.

Services offered

This program provides an array of services to clients including:

  • Health and resiliency education
  • Physical and behavioral health planning
  • Substance abuse treatment services
  • Outreach services
  • Case management services
  • Wellness groups and therapy sessions
  • Recovery support
Results

In 3 years, this program has assisted 364 clients, with at least 2,433 client encounters taking place. The program has been able to reduce client visits to the emergency department each year, with 91% of clients having 1 or more ER visit during the first year, 63% in year two, and 59% in year three. The program has also seen a decline in clients with 1 or more hospital admissions, with 50% in year one, 34% in year two, and 27% in year three. Clients’ positive perceptions of their health have increased to 88% during the length of this program as well.

Barriers

Challenges that the program has encountered include:

  • Employee turnover that made for difficult staffing shortages during the program
  • Communication hardships, as confidentiality laws can be confusing to navigate
  • Lack of a unified record keeping system between physicians and treatment providers
  • The stigma of behavioral health issues
Replication

In order to successfully create a similar program in other communities:

  • Create a consortium of key influencers and make sure that decision makers at the provider agencies, area hospital, and doctors’ offices are part of it
  • Partner with substance abuse and mental health providers and get them involved with the program
  • Work together to develop efficient ways to exchange information
  • Be cognizant of all data relating to program and keep it accurate
  • Start small to work out all the kinks, then expand to other counties
Contact Information
Kami Anderson, Executive Director
Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission
724.354.2746 Ext. 302
kanderson@aicdac.org
Topics
Care coordination
Community health workers
Health conditions
Substance abuse
States served
Pennsylvania
Date added
September 14, 2015

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.