Since March, attendance has more than doubled for Saginaw Valley State University-organized Project ECHO, which provides healthcare providers with bi-weekly teleconferences with a panel of substance-use disorder experts from the Great Lakes Bay Region.
Experts include members of the university’s College of Health & Human Services faculty, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, a peer recovery coach, a pharmacist, a social worker, and an addictionologist.
Each session starts with a lecture on a specific topic and concludes with participants asking questions and sharing experiences and best practices.
Participants are mostly primary care teams in rural regions. Health care workers from 45 of Michigan’s 83 counties, 22 U.S. states, Canada and Tanzania have attended sessions in the project’s two-year history.
“Isolation is the enemy of a person with a substance use disorder,” said Kathleen Schachman, a project organizer who serves as the university’s Harvey Randall Wickes endowed chair in nursing. “It’s only through connections that they are really able to embrace recovery, and when we cut those connections, it has really negative consequences. There is an increased risk for relapse or overdose. That’s our challenge as health care providers — to prevent that — and so we at Project ECHO want to keep these health care teams engaged with their patients.”