BLOG: Seven Steps the Wolf Administration is Taking to Fight Back Against Heroin

By: Sophie Stone, Deputy Press Secretary

April 28, 2016

Governor Tom Wolf joined legislators, local leaders, and medical officials at the PA College of Technology today 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 plans and ideas for moving forward include:

Continuing Medical Education:
  • The Departments of Health (DOH), Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), and State (DOS) have joined with the PA Medical Society to work on developing and offering continuing medical education (CME) credits for physicians on substance use disorders (SUD).
  • The educational modules are broken into 4 sessions.
  • Currently, modules on naloxone and prescribing guidelines are available on the PA Medical Society’s website. Still under development are modules on the ABC-MAP program and warm handoffs.
Developing Substance Use Disorder Medical School Curricula:
  • Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine and DDAP are working with the deans of Pennsylvania medical schools to incorporate SUD courses into their curricula required for graduation from the program.
  • This effort was successfully accomplished in Massachusetts and has been advocated by the Obama Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Collaborating on Opioid Prescribing Guidelines:
  • DOH and DDAP have been working collaboratively to create a set of specialized opioid prescribing guidelines in an effort to curtail the excess supply of drugs.
  • The departments have completed multiple guidelines, including emergency department providers, chronic non-cancer pain, obstetrics and gynecology, pharmacists, geriatrics and dental pain.
  • In development still are pediatrics, neurology and sports medicine.
  • The departments are working to get the guidelines affirmed by the appropriate medical boards.
Creating a Syringe Exchange Program:
  • Syringe replacement programs can reduce the spread of disease and assist in connecting those with SUD with treatment professionals.
  • In addition, these programs provide opportunities for program staff to share treatment options and assistance to intravenous drug users in a safe environment.
Budgeting $34M for Opioid Use Disorder Centers of Excellence:
  • Governor Wolf’s proposed 2016-17 budget provides more than $34 million to treat more than 11,250 new individuals with substance use disorder.
  • The Department of Human Services (DHS) will provide 50 new Centers of Excellence for individuals with substance use disorder, providing medication-assisted treatment and appropriate wraparound services, such as cognitive-based therapies.
  • Opioid Use Disorder Centers of Excellence will focus on whole-person care and will treat all of the health care needs of an individual through a collaborative approach that consists of physical and behavioral health care and links to appropriate community supports that can increase chances of recovery and reduce expensive health care costs.
Increasing the Number of Providers in the Medicaid System:

BHMCOs use local needs assessments in the development of new services, including the expansion of the provider networks and development of additional supplemental services to address the needs identified within the local community.

  • DHS continues to use these local assessments to inform and pursue recruitment and retention of additional providers to meet the increasing needs of Pennsylvanians affected by the opioid epidemic.
Developing the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP):
  • Pennsylvania’s PDMP, implemented by DOH, is the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions (ABC-MAP) program.
  • Pharmacies and health care professionals who dispense certain controlled substances will be required to electronically report prescription dispensing information to the ABC-MAP system within 72-hours.
  • ABC-MAP will aid regulatory and law enforcement agencies in detecting and preventing fraud and abuse, as well as, helping individuals with SUD get into treatment.
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