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Southwest General Launches Peer Support Team Program in Response to Rising Fatal Drug Overdose Numbers

Caroline Fienga

Interactive Media &
Public Relations Specialist

440-816-6723 (office)
216-299-7727 (cell)

Southwest General Launches Peer Support Team Program in Response to
Rising Fatal Drug Overdose Numbers

Middleburg Hts., OH (Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018) – A recent spike in fatal drug overdoses in Cuyahoga County has officials concerned that there could be as many drug-related deaths in 2018 as last year’s record-setting total of 727 fatal drug overdoses, according to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner.

In response to these troubling statistics, a program for rapid overdose response has been implemented at Southwest General through a partnership with the Cuyahoga County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board (ADAMHS) and The Woodrow Project.

“If an individual within the community overdoses, the standard course of action is for him or her to be brought to the Southwest General Emergency Department (ED) by either the fire or police representative,” explains Michael Waggoner, RN, MSN, director, Oakview Behavioral Health Services, Southwest General. “Once the individual is medically cleared, he or she will be offered the opportunity, while still in the ED, to speak with a peer support specialist through The Woodrow Project.”

“The Woodrow Project is managed by people who are in long-term recovery with many years of sobriety and who have experience working with addicted individuals,” says Erin Helms, executive director, The Woodrow Project. “The peer support specialists support individuals on the road to recovery by providing them with the tools and education needed to make the most informed decision regarding their treatment path.”

Research has shown that implementation of peer support specialists can*:

  • Improve quality of life,
  • Improve engagement and satisfaction with services and supports,
  • Improve whole health, including chronic conditions, such as diabetes,
  • Decrease hospitalizations and inpatient days, and
  • Reduce the overall cost of services.

“Additionally, we are working closely with Southwest General, along with several area Police Departments, including Berea, Middleburg Hts., Strongsville, Olmsted Township and Newburg Heights,” says Helms.

These area Police Departments are committing to combatting the opiate epidemic by encouraging opiate users to seek recovery and connecting people with treatment programs through the “Safe Passages” initiative. The program is designed to help those suffering from addiction receive help through a treatment program rather than using the power of arrest to combat the problem.

“The peer support specialists are a critical link between the treatment system and the larger communities where those struggling with addiction live,” says Waggoner. “We are grateful to bring this exceptional program to Southwest General as we continue to focus on providing rapid intervention for individuals who have overdosed.”

For more information, or to speak with a Southwest General representative, please contact Caroline Fienga, interactive media and public relations specialist, at 440-816-6723 or

*Source: Mental Health America (

About Southwest General
Southwest General is a private, not-for-profit, 350-bed acute care facility located in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. Founded in 1920, Southwest General is home to nationally recognized physicians with full access to state-of-the-art technology. Southwest General has a deep commitment to providing personalized care and building a healthy future for the patients, families and communities it serves. For more information, visit or find Southwest General on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.