Guiding Lights

Premier Health’s SUN program offers support, resources, and care without judgment.

“My job is to assess, to listen to, to advocate for, and to provide resources for those struggling with addiction.” That is how Jill Browder, substance use navigator at Premier Health, describes her role.

Browder knows first-hand what patients experiencing substance use disorder need – celebrating six years clean and sober, she says that this is her passion and her purpose. “I needed me when I was on the other end of it.”

The Substance Use Navigator, or SUN (pronounced like the word “sun”) program at Premier Health is the first in the region. SUNs work with patients in the emergency department to complete chemical dependency assessments and provide linkages to care, including placement in treatment facilities and other wrap-around services. The health system was awarded the Ohio Department of Health Comprehensive Care for Substance Use in Ohio Emergency Departments (CCOED) grant, allowing Premier Health to develop the innovative SUN program.

SUNs must have experience with substance use disorder, nursing, or social work, and most importantly, a passion to serve the community and a strong sense of compassion for their patients. SUNs are in place in several Premier Health Emergency Departments and leverage telehealth capabilities (called TeleSUN) to reach additional emergency locations.

“In California, patients who are looking to begin recovery go into the emergency department and specifically ask for a SUN,” said Kimberly Wascak, MD, emergency center medical director for Premier Health. “We look forward to the day when patients who need help with substance use come into our emergency centers and ask for that help.”

Patients are asked drug screening questions in the emergency department. Based on those answers, a SUN is alerted to join the care team. While that information alone does not determine if a patient has a substance use disorder, it provides an opportunity for the SUN to get to know the patient, see if any supportive services are needed, determine if the patient is a candidate for inpatient or outpatient treatment, and remove any barriers to that treatment.

“Sometimes the patient feels like they don’t have a voice, so I am their voice,” said Brooke Sampsel, SUN. “I am their advocate to get them the help that they need, to make them stronger and happier.”

“A patient asked me if I was an angel, why do we care so much,” said Regina Reeder, SUN. “That makes me realize there is a need for this.”