Recovery Navigators Help Opioid Addicts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Fighting opioid abuse is getting a boost of support from people who have overcome the same dark addiction in the past.

As of this month, a program under the TN Together plan will get to pair people who were revived from a drug overdose with so-called recovery navigators in Nashville.

Recovery navigators are people who have been in recovery for at least two years and completed the Certified Peer Recovery Specialist Program.

Their goal is to connect with patients at the hospital and get them much needed help and support.

"Once they're able to give consent, the doctor will ask them if they would like to speak to someone and want help. Then they will call one of us, and we respond. We give them resources, share a little bit of our story of how we've been there and what we've been through, and just that there is hope and this is not the end," Coon explained.

Coon recovered from her opioid addiction four years ago at Buffalo Valley. She admitted herself to the treatment center after she overdosed on heroin laced with fentanyl.

"I remember praying for God to please let me wake up, and I wouldn't do this again," she said. "I knew at that point I did not want to live like that anymore."

Since then she went from being a client to an employee. She jumped on the opportunity to become a recovery navigator because she knows the importance of making a connection.

"Doctors, counselors, and psychiatrists tried to get me sober for a long time until I got my counselor, and she had been through the same thing I've been through. That makes a difference, so I know it makes a difference," Coon said.

Currently, there are 11 recovery navigators across the state. Four of them are in the Mid-State.

Under TN Together, $25 million focuses on providing treatment to drug users. Part of it includes the expansion of peer recovery specialists in targeted, high-need emergency departments.

The program first started in upper East Tennessee and made its way to Memphis and then Nashville. Chattanooga and Knoxville are next on the list.

St. Thomas and TriStar Skyline Medical Center are two hospitals who are a part of the program. The state hopes to include more hospitals in the future.

To learn more, including how to apply to be certified, click on this link.

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