ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — Swedish Medical Center in Englewood has a new way to help fight addiction.

A peer advocate now works inside the emergency department to meet with patients who are struggling with substance use disorder.

Laura Allem is a recovery support specialist with Advocates for Recovery Colorado who works at Swedish. 

Allem fought her own battle with alcohol and now she uses that experience to help give others hope.

“I walk in as a peer, as somebody who has gone through that storm myself, and come out the other side into recovery,” she said.

Allem meets with patients who come in with cases involving alcohol or substance use disorder. “We are talking. Sometimes I hold their hand, sometimes we are crying,” she said.

She offers resources and reaches out to that person multiple times in the coming months, helping them to form connections and a community.

Unfortunately, she sees many cases involving fentanyl, which has become a national issue and an increasing concern in Colorado.

“We’ve seen everything from three teenagers in here at the same time, coming from the same party, thinking they were using something else, and it being laced, to a mid-50s man who just wanted to try it,” she said.

“What fentanyl does is make our work much more urgent,” Dr. Don Stader, emergency medicine and addiction medicine physician at Swedish Medical Center said. He helped to start the program at Swedish.

Stader believes the opposite of addiction is connection, and he wants patients to find that in the recovery support program.

“We can’t waste chances at recovery. When a person comes and they are willing to look for something different rather than drug use, we need to be available with medications to treat their underlying addiction, and with a community that we can transition them to,” Stader said.

Advocates for Recovery Colorado will hold a rally on Sept. 17 in downtown Denver.