BLOG: Gov. Wolf, State Agencies, Legislators Fight Back Against Heroin Epidemic

By: Sophie Stone, Deputy Press Secretary

April 25, 2016

The Wolf Administration has made the fight against the opioid abuse and heroin use crisis a top priority.

In addition to other administration initiatives, Governor Wolf’s proposed 2016-17 budget provides more than $34 million to treat more than 11,250 new individuals with substance use disorder.

In a piece entitled “Wolf’s $34M drug treatment plan gains momentum,” the Sunbury Daily Item writes that this proposal will “expand access to drug treatment facilities and curtail heroin and prescription painkiller addiction.”

The article quotes Governor Wolf’s spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan as saying that, “the governor has taken a bipartisan approach in building support for the funding proposal… [and] continues to engage legislators, emergency responders, local officials, health care professionals and others to learn about the scope of heroin and opioid addiction and to gain suggestions on how to address it.”

“The governor is confident members from both parties will work with him to provide adequate funding to holistically address this issue,” Sheridan said.

Senator Gene Yaw, chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a bipartisan legislative agency of the General Assembly, remarked on the plan:

“The concept is a good one because throughout all our hearings we heard that a warm handoff is critical and integral to the whole continuum of care.”

Representative Kurt Masser “expects [that] Republicans and Democrats will meet in the middle on the issue..”

“This is one item that I think every person in the Legislature can back. I think you’ll see bipartisan support to go along with the governor’s proposal,” Masser said.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) will use this funding to provide 50 new Centers of Excellence for individuals with substance use disorder, providing medication-assisted treatment and appropriate collaborative services and therapies.

The centers will focus on whole-person care. All of an individual’s health care needs will be treated through a collaborative approach that consists of physical and behavioral health care. Treatment will link to appropriate community supports.

This collaboration will increase chances of recovery and reduce expensive health care costs.

The article continues:

“Cost and availability of treatment services are identified as barriers to recovery, both of which Wolf’s proposal seeks to address. A study on addiction… found just 1 in 8 Pennsylvanians can afford treatment services and estimated that more than 35,000 beds are needed for 60-day inpatient stays but just 6,800 are available.”

The Wolf administration will continue to work to expand access to services and treatments statewide. Governor Wolf is confident that building a comprehensive system that treats each individual based on the patient’s unique needs is the best path forward for Pennsylvania in combating this epidemic.

How will these Centers operate? The Daily Item broke it down:

  • DHS is offering $500,000 to each facility either to expand or establish medication-assisted treatment at behavioral health or primary care practices.
  • A minimum 300 additional patients must be enrolled within a year.
  • The theory of “warm handoffs” will be employed, encouraging hospitals, correctional facilities, physicians, and inpatient treatment centers to steer people to a Center of Excellence.
  • Each facility’s care management team will be tasked to engage addicts and recovering addicts in their physical and behavioral health care and also assist in finding stable housing and employment and repairing fractured relationships.
  • Twenty-five facilities already licensed by the state’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs will implement the measures proposed in the Centers of Excellence plan by October 1.
  • An additional 25 facilities incorporated into the state’s HealthChoices mandatory managed care program for Medicaid recipients will begin implementation January 1, including 20 primary care providers.
  • DHS will oversee implementation of the Centers of Excellence initiative with assistance from county drug and alcohol programs in selecting facilities and managing funding.

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