Recovering from opioid addiction involves a team effort

EATONTOWN, New Jersey (WABC) -- The moment a patient has signs of a drug addition, the team of treatment specialists at RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery focuses on turning that person's life around.

"Everyone's window to recovery opens and closes a hundred times a day," said the institute's director, Michael Litterer. "Our job as a peer recovery specialist is to find that window when it's open and prop our arm in there to keep it open."

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The team, made up of recovering addicts, works around the clock to make sure that a person with an opioid addiction problem knows they have help.

"Recovery can't take place without community," said Connie Greene, the institute's vice president. "That's the missing piece: a sense of community, a sense of belonging."

The institute opened in 2016 with a small staff, which has now grown to over 200, treating in the last year some 18,000 patients who struggle with opioid dependency.

"All they have to say is, 'Yes, I want help!' and we'll hold their hand and support them through that entire process, whatever that is," said Litterer.

Patients that have received a dose of Narcan are easy to identify in the hospital, and so are those who are suffering an overdose. But the team works with doctors and nurses to identify patients who won't admit they have a drug problem.

"We follow them," said Greene. "So when someone leaves us, leaves the hospital, we do at least eight weeks of... I call it lovingly stalking them. So now someone is calling them. Someone really cares."

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