BLOG: How Is Gov. Wolf Fighting Back Against the Heroin Crisis in the next Budget?

By: Sophie Stone, Deputy Press Secretary

June 07, 2016

Since April, Governor Wolf has been traveling statewide to host roundtables with legislators on the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemic in Pennsylvania. At each event, the governor has been joined by not only legislators but also local officials, law enforcement, health care professionals, individuals who have lost loved ones to addiction, and survivors of opioid overdose.

These productive and powerful conversations have allowed local and state officials to come together and discuss the challenges that they are facing. The roundtables are an opportunity to work collaboratively with the General Assembly and community leaders to ensure that Pennsylvania leads the nation in the fight to combat the opioid abuse and heroin use crisis.

Fighting back against this public health crisis is a top priority for Governor Wolf and his administration.

What is Governor Wolf proposing to do?

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 will provide 25 new Opioid Use Disorder Centers of Excellence for individuals with substance use disorder, providing medication-assisted treatment and appropriate wraparound services, such as cognitive-based therapies.

After this first phase of implementation, there will be a push for 25 more facilities.

The Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice called this plan the “first and crucial step… toward recognizing, confronting and dealing with Pennsylvania’s drug problem once and for all.”

What is a Center of Excellence?

These centers coordinate care for people with Medicaid. Treatment is team-based and focused on the “whole person” — with the explicit goal of integrating behavioral health with primary care.

Patients of these centers:

  • Have an opioid use disorder
  • May have co-occurring behavioral and physical health conditions
  • Need help to navigate the care system
  • Need guidance to stay engaged in treatment so as to avoid relapsing
What will these centers do?

The centers provide comprehensive care management and coordinates patient care.

In order to best serve patients, the centers provide transitional and follow-up care. They provide patient and family support and offer referrals to other community and social support services that can help the patient.

The team at a center include the patient, health care providers, family members, community-based care navigators, and community-based resources.

Why is this important for the 2016-17 budget?

The opioid abuse and heroin use epidemic is the most significant public health crisis of our lifetime.

According to the Sharon Herald, our state’s awareness of and eagerness to fight back against this epidemic was “made very clear on Thursday when Gov. Tom Wolf said he was seeking $34 million in the state’s budget to address opioid and heroin abuse… the hope is these centers will become a pathway for treatment and save the lives of addicts who are living on the very edge.”

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.

This funding is the next step on the state level to increase quality of and access to care.

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