Borough Park

Maimonides joins city’s opioid treatment ‘relay’ team

November 16, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray tells the audience at Maimonides Medical Center that getting help from a Wellness Advocate “gives hope and strength to a survivor.” Photo courtesy of Maimonides Medical Center
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Maimonides Medical Center has become part of a relay team, not to win gold medals in track and field, but to save lives.

New York City’s first lady Chirlane McCray and Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett recently came to the hospital at 4802 10th Ave. in Borough Park to announce that the hospital’s Emergency Department is now a “relay” site in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s effort to treat non-fatal opioid overdoses.

Under the relay program, experts known as “wellness advocates” are dispatched to hospitals to assist patients and their families in the hours after a non-fatal opioid overdose. 

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The advocates are there to offer support and to connect survivors with counseling and overdose rescue training. The advocates are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to a call from a hospital, officials said.

The advocates are expected to stay in contact with overdose survivors for up to 90 days to help them find drug treatment, receive nutrition assistance and find emergency housing.

The relay program is part of HealingNYC, a $38 million initiative started by the de Blasio administration earlier this year that is aimed at reducing opioid overdose deaths by 35 percent over the next five years. 

“For those who have survived an opioid overdose, the first few hours when they are so vulnerable can be the most daunting. The presence of a Wellness Advocate, someone who has personally overcome substance misuse, gives hope and strength to a survivor. By encouraging relationships with these trained peer advocates, Relay guarantees the nurturing support that our loved ones deserve,” said McCray, who is leading the city’s mental health efforts. 

“Relay offers overdose survivors judgment-free support from peers who understand opioid misuse from personal experience,” Bassett said. “Overdose survivors are at a high risk of experiencing a fatal overdose. The hours after an overdose are a window of opportunity to offer support and prevent future overdoses.”

People who have survived an opioid overdose are two to three times more likely to experience a fatal overdose the next time around than those who have used drugs but have not suffered an overdose, according to Bassett.

Maimonides President and CEO Kenneth D. Gibbs, who noted that the opioid overdose crisis is gripping the nation, said his hospital is pleased to be taking part in the city’s innovative new program. “The HealingNYC program is bringing needed services to the most vulnerable, which is precisely what all hospitals aspire to achieve every day,” he said.

Dr. John Marshall, chair of Emergency Medicine at Maimonides, said his department is “on the front lines of the battle against opioid overdose deaths” and that bringing the program to Maimonides is a major step forward.

“Were honored to partner with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to bring Relay services to Brooklyn, a program that has already made a difference for scores of patients,” he said. 

“With the Relay program expanding into Maimonides Medical Center, New York City now has more paths to recovery for residents wrestling with opioid addiction,” said Dr. Herminia Palacio, deputy mayor for Health and Human Services.

“Addressing this epidemic requires various strategies and approaches, such as this program,” she said. “Wellness Advocates can meet New Yorkers at a moment of deep crisis and help them forge a path towards healing.”


Individuals seeking treatment for substance use can call the city’s confidential hotline at 1-888-NYC-WELL, or text “WELL” to 65173.

Information is also available at


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