In 2017, there were more than 70,200 drug overdose deaths in the United States, and in Philadelphia, the death rates were higher than any large city in the country. After struggling with opioid use and losing her sister to an overdose, Nicole O’Donnell made it her mission to get on the road to recovery. Now, she provides peer support for others struggling with opioid use through Penn Medicine’s Center for Opioid Recovery and Engagement (CORE).
CORE not only offers peer support but also connects patients to comprehensive treatment for substance use. As a Certified Recovery Specialist, O’Donnell visits people who may need help in the community, drawing on her own experiences and forging trusting relationships with those she meets, like CORE patient Eileen. As of the summer of 2020, Eileen is still on her recovery journey. Her connection with O’Donnell, she says, has helped her look forward to things she didn’t think about before.