Project ASSERT was established to provide greater access to substance use treatment in the Emergency Department (ED) setting and has expanded to include a variety of social and community healthcare support services. Based in the ED, Project ASSERT counsels patients whose alcohol and/or drug use was directly and indirectly implicated in their need for emergency services. This nationally recognized, evidence-based program uses motivational interviewing to encourage patients and family members to seek care for risky use of substances. It also helps patients access primary care, clinical preventive services, and the drug and alcohol treatment network. Project ASSERT staffed by seven MA. Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors (LADCs) was the first nationally cited Emergency Department program to deploy peer counselors/educators as motivators and navigators to identify and intervene with patients with substance use disorders. These peer professionals, recruited from communities served by BMC, play a vital role in bringing their expertise, life experience, service network contacts and a nonjudgmental, respectful approach to patients struggling with addiction and those who lack the basics of adequate housing, food security and a living wage. Project ASSERT has influenced the culture of the ED at BMC by setting the tone on how to better understand the complexities of our patients’ lives. To promote this, Project ASSERT organizes a yearly community tour for incoming emergency medicine residents.
In addition to their extensive interactions with patients, Project ASSERT has worked tirelessly to stem the opioid overdose epidemic at its source. Since 2009, the program has collaborated with the city and state to educate patients on the risks and signs of an opioid overdose, and the appropriate response measures including providing patients with the life-saving naloxone rescue kits. Project ASSERT staff carry naloxone rescue kits on their person and have saved a number of lives. They also participate in staff and house officers’ naloxone and opioid overdose training. Daily, we learn of family members utilizing rescue kits to revive loved ones, and daily, Project ASSERT intervenes to help vulnerable patients’ access treatment and resources.