Governor Wolf Announces Year-One Successes of Centers of Excellence

February 28, 2018

Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Tom Wolf announced the successes achieved during the first year of operation for the 45 Centers of Excellence (COEs) across the commonwealth. Since 2016, the governor’s administration has funded these statewide centers through the Department of Human Services to get more people suffering with opioid use disorder (OUD) into treatment sooner and engaged in treatment longer.

“Centers of Excellence have proven themselves to be a critical part of our efforts to improve treatment for people suffering with opioid use disorder,” Governor Wolf said. “It is critical that we continue to do everything we can to combat this epidemic and, with these centers, individuals suffering from OUD have access to treatment in their communities for the whole person, instead of just the disease.”

Successes during the first year of implementation include:

  • 14,654 individuals have interacted with a COE;
  • 10,903 individuals have received a level-of-care assessment, which helps to determine the type, level, and length of treatment;
  • 71 percent of individuals seen by a COE have been engaged in treatment (including residential, outpatient, and medication-assisted treatment); and
  • 62 percent of individuals have been engaged in treatment for at least 30 days.

Prior to these centers, as few as 48 percent of Medicaid patients diagnosed with OUD were receiving treatment. Of those, only 33 percent remained engaged in treatment for more than 30 days.

COEs provide treatment that is team-based and focused on the whole person, with a goal of integrating behavioral health and primary care. The center’s care managers work to keep people with OUD in treatment, including coordinating follow-up care and community supports.

COEs work as a hub-and-spoke network, with the designated center serving as the hub. The spokes can include primary care practices, the criminal justice system, other treatment providers, and other referral sources.

The administration’s efforts have resulted in the development of integrated systems that are:

  • Enabling addiction and other physical and mental health issues to be treated simultaneously;
  • Closing treatment system gaps using community-based care management teams, so fewer people seeking recovery relapse;
  • Expanding access to medications that help people recover from addiction; and
  • Developing relationships with other treatment providers, the criminal justice system, primary care practices, emergency departments, and other potential referral sources where people with OUD might present.

“During the first year of implementation for any wide-scale project, there are inevitably lessons learned,” Acting Secretary for the Department of Human Services Teresa Miller said. “We are using those things we’ve learned to further enhance our efforts to help combat this epidemic that affects every Pennsylvanian in some way.”

Governor Wolf and state agencies have been increasing efforts in the fight against prescription drug abuse in multiple areas, including numerous programs and initiatives:

  • Working with the legislature to establish a new law limiting the number of opioids that can be prescribed to a minor and to individuals discharged from emergency rooms to seven days;
  • Strengthening the PDMP through the legislative process so that doctors are required and able to check the system each time they prescribe opioids and benzodiazepines;
  • Forming new prescribing guidelines to help doctors who provide opioid prescriptions to their patients, including guidelines specific to orthopedics and sports medicine;
  • Creating warm handoff guidelines to facilitate referrals from the emergency department to substance abuse treatment;
  • Teaming with the legislature to establish education curriculum on safe prescribing for medical schools; and
  • Awarding four $1 million grants for medication-assisted treatment using a hub and spoke model for Pennsylvanians who are uninsured, under-insured or have private insurance.

For more information on the state’s efforts to battle the opioid epidemic, visit

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