BLOG: What the Wolf Administration Has Done to Combat the Heroin Crisis

By: Sophie Stone, Deputy Press Secretary

April 27, 2016

Governor Tom Wolf joined legislators, local leaders, and medical officials at the West Reading Hospital last week to discuss local and statewide efforts to lead the nation in combatting the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemic in Pennsylvania.

In an effort to confront this epidemic collaboratively, Governor Wolf is conducting roundtables statewide to discuss the initiatives of his administration, the state legislature, county agencies, treatment centers, hospitals, medical schools, and more.

The magnitude of the addiction and overdose death epidemic in Pennsylvania is shocking: at least seven Pennsylvanians die every day from a drug overdose.

With nearly 2,500 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2014 and estimates that the 2015 total will be higher, a collaborative effort on the federal, state, and local levels is crucial in combating this crisis.

Some of the administration’s current and ongoing initiatives include:

Drug Take-Back Boxes:
  • The Wolf Administration, through DDAP, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) and the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association (PDAA), developed a statewide drug take-back system to address the problem of excess prescription drugs.
  • The program has placed over 300 boxes resulting in the collection of over 40,000 pounds of prescription drugs.
Naloxone Distribution:
Expedited Behavioral Health Coverage:

Behavioral Health Managed Care Organizations (BHMCOs) provide behavioral health, substance use disorder (SUD), and recovery-oriented supplemental services in the Medicaid System.

  • DHS and DDAP are collaborating to ensure that individuals in need of SUD treatment are able to access those services immediately through an expedited enrollment process.
  • This means persons have BHMCO coverage as soon as their Medicaid is approved.
  • A particular emphasis is placed on facilitating immediate BHMCO coverage for individuals being released from state and county correctional institutions and transferring directly to Residential Drug and Alcohol Treatment Facilities to ensure Medicaid covers the cost of care.
Warm Handoff Policy:

“Warm handoffs” refer to health care professionals are transitioning patients from primary physician care to specialized drug and alcohol treatment programs.

  • Through DOH, health care professionals are being trained in warm handoffs, learning how to provide facilitated referrals that support individuals with SUD and increase the odds of a successful recovery.
Behind-the-Walls Treatment:
  • The Department of Corrections (DOC) is working to reduce criminal behaviors through individualized SUD treatment and education for inmates.
  • This will result in successful community reintegration.
  • DOC provides comprehensive drug and alcohol treatment to inmates through a variety of services, including assessment, outpatient care, inpatient care or aftercare.
  • As part of this ongoing mission, DOC is also conducting a pilot program using Vivitrol, a long-acting injectable form of naltrexone that blocks certain receptors to prevent a ‘high.’

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