SOMERVILLE — Through the first nine months of 2017, 94 cases at the emergency department of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset involved patients who had been administered Narcan following an opioid overdose.

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In 2016, Narcan saved the lives of 126 people brought to the hospital by ambulance.

From this day forward, these individuals will have an extra layer of support beyond any medical help they may require.

A ceremony Thursday in the hospital's auditorium celebrated the launch of the Opioid Overdose Recovery Program, a product of RWJBarnabas Health's Institute for Prevention that's already up and running at more than a dozen hospitals in and out of the RWJBarnabas system throughout several New Jersey counties.

With the program in place, recovery specialists are on call 24/7 for deployment to RWJUH Somerset in the event of a case involving a Narcan reversal.

"We hire individuals who are four years in recovery," said Connie Greene, vice president of the Institute for Prevention. "The recovery specialist appears at the hospital in well under an hour; they're doing a bedside intervention."

The goal of the specialist, Greene said, is to get the patient into some level of addiction care, depending on their unique situation. If the patient isn't interested at the time, the recovery specialist "lovingly stalks them for eight weeks," as she describes it.

"They stay in touch with them, they ask them how they're doing," Greene said. "Here's a strong warm hand reaching out, following up, providing interest in helping them move from hopelessness to hope."

Of the approximately 2,000 Narcan-reversal patients seen at hospitals with OORP in place over the past several months, about 50 percent have gone into recovery with the help of a specialist, Greene said.

A total of about 90 recovery specialists exist for the 14 hospitals in New Jersey currently running OORP, thanks to grants from the state.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.