Last month, UTHealth’s opioid use disorder prevention program reached a 500 patient milestone, going well beyond its original expectation of 75. Houston Recovery Center is one of several program partners with this program, Houston Emergency Opioid Engagement System (HEROES) and provides peer recovery coaches. Jessica Yeager, Chad Armstrong, and Angel Phillps (pictured) are on the frontline, with their partner from Houston Fire Department, knocking on residential doors to offer help to those who recently experienced an opioid overdose and were released from ER.
“We didn’t know how many patients to expect, because there had been no prevalence estimates of people with opioid use disorder,” states James Langabeer, PhD, Director of HEROES and professor at UTHealth.
The general consensus by experts in the community was that the problem was largely related to methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana — not heroin, synthetics, or pills. That is clearly not accurate, Langabeer says.
HEROES has new goals as it approaches its second year anniversary and gains momentum and success. The primary goal, according to Langabeer, is to expand the model across Texas and the country.
“We’d love to help people adopt a model similar to ours and have a consortium of cities that share data, so we can show patient outcomes and learn from them,” Langabeer states.
Langabeer also wants to have all hospital emergency departments (ED) in Texas use medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder directly in the ED, before the patient leaves.
Langabeer says the program is much more successful than they expected.
“We have been able to spread the word about our program to those in need, and they are coming from everywhere, across the region, to try to get help,” he states.