Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis recently visited Ascension’s St. Vincent’s Riverside in Jacksonville to learn about Project Save Lives, which pairs those who have suffered from near overdoses with a group of peer specialists.

The program has gained national attention for its success in getting opioid overdose survivors into treatment and recovery. The program launched in Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside’s emergency department in November 2017. It has since expanded to Ascension St. Vincent’s Southside and Ascension St. Vincent’s Clay County, and to other hospitals in Jacksonville and the rest of the state. It will be expanding to all Ascension Florida hospitals and already has started to be implemented at Ascension Sacred Heart Bay in Panama City, which has seen a significant increase in drug and alcohol abuse and mental health diagnoses since Hurricane Michael in October 2018.

The goal of the program is to identify patients who have overdosed and guide them through treatment and rehabilitation. After they enter the emergency department, potential participants are identified and paired with recovery peer specialists, people who have battled addiction themselves and received specialized training. These peer specialists then help navigate patients through a journey to health and recovery.