How the New Department of Health and Human Services Will Help People with Substance Use Disorder

Yesterday, Governor Wolf announced his plan to create a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in his 2017-2018 budget which would merge the Departments of Aging (PDA), Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), Health (DOH), and Human Services (DHS) in order to help provide more streamlined services to Pennsylvanians.

One group of Pennsylvanians the creation of this new department will benefit are those suffering from substance use disorder. Currently, PDA, DDAP, DOH, and DHS have all been critical to battling the opioid and heroin epidemic. For example:

  • DOH launched a prescription drug monitoring program and has been raising awareness of the naloxone standing order
  • DDAP has led the effort to increase the availability of naloxone and drug take back boxes
  • DHS has created 45 centers of excellence to coordinate treatment for those suffering from substance use disorders
  • PDA has led prescription drug take back efforts among the senior population encouraging proper use, storage, and disposal of unused prescription medications

By creating a single organization that is structurally better able to support and coordinate these efforts, individuals in desperate need of substance use disorder treatment will be able to access services through one agency with an integrated data and delivery system.

It’s important to note that the creation will not result in a loss of services for those suffering from substance use disorder. In fact, just today Governor Wolf announced that his proposed 2017-2018 budget will include $10 million to provide live-saving Naloxone to first responders and law enforcement across the state to help save lives and get people into treatment.

Governor Wolf is continuing to make battling the opioid and heroin crisis epidemic a top priority which is why there will continue to be a cabinet-level position in his administration that will be dedicated to battling this public health crisis.

Additionally, the new HHS will serve as the single state authority for Medicaid, substance use, and mental health purposes enabling the commonwealth to maximize available federal dollars and offset state costs for staff and services.

By streamlining services and getting rid of unnecessary red tape, Pennsylvania will be able to provide additional, high-quality services to those suffering from substance use disorder so we can stem the tide of the terrible disease of addiction.

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