IU Health addiction recovery program lets former addicts help their peers

(WTHR Photo)

AVON, Ind. (WTHR) – It's a novel approach to an ever-increasing problem - former addicts helping addicts.

The Peer Recovery Coach Virtual Care Program at IU Health in Avon are on the front lines when it comes to addiction.

Once a patient is treated and released what happens then? IU Health might have a solution.

Inside that hospital someone will push a button and activate an addiction recovery counselor sitting in downtown Indianapolis.

"I let them know that I am a person in long term recovery right off the bat," Sarah Stillerman said. "I let them know my drug of choice was alcohol."

That was 10 years ago. Sitting across the room is Spencer Medcalf. Two years ago he was addicted to heroin. Neither one could imagine being in this position.

"I thought I would be dead by 25," Medcalf said.

But when that tone goes off, they spring into action.

They have answered 825 psych calls and 648 addiction calls from patients who are asking for peer counseling.

"This person understands," Medcalf said. "I am not another person in a white coat trying to triage. I want to get down to the causes and conditions and help them move forward in a healthy manner."

They help them plan the next step, whether that means additional treatment or counseling.

"It's not the time we have but what we have done with the time," Stillerman said. "Where I have been in that deepest darkest moment. How I got out and what their goals are in life and how I can help them achieve those goals. That way we can relate to them. There is hope. Recovery is possible and not all is lost in the world."

And it starts at the darkest point with a touch of a button.

The Peer Recovery Coach Virtual Care Program is a grant program that started in August of 2018.