With opioid pain pill and heroin addiction on the rise in Pennsylvania and across the nation – it’s been deemed the deadliest drug crisis in U.S. history – efforts to increase access to treatment continue.
This week, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that three midstate facilities will revamp services in the fall to treat Medicaid recipients with opioid-related substance use disorders.
The facilities are TW Ponessa & Associates Counseling Services Inc. in Lancaster County and Pennsylvania Counseling Services in Dauphin and York Counties.
Slated to start services by October 2016, the locations are among 20 facilities approved so far to receive funding statewide from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Gov. Wolf said. They have been labeled as Centers of Excellence.
The state has $34.2 million available for up to 50 Centers of Excellence overall across the state. So far the department has received 116 applications from providers in 45 counties.
“We all know someone impacted by the opioid epidemic and one thing has become abundantly clear – opioid addiction is an illness,” Wolf said. “In order to address this illness we need to think about addiction treatment in a different way. Treating underlying causes gives people the best chance they have to beat their addiction.”
Centers to integrate behavioral, primary health care
The centers will coordinate care specifically for Medicaid patients, and they will integrate behavioral and primary health care, as well as provide medication-assisted treatment when necessary.
Medications to treat opioid addiction include methadone and buprenorphine. When coupled with support services such as therapy, the drugs can decrease the likelihood of a relapse, according to a news release.
The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs will license the centers as drug and alcohol providers so that they can provide FDA-approved medications.
Often people undergoing treatment will drop out once the physical symptoms of addiction are treated. They may disregard behavioral therapies and fail to connect with support groups in their communities, a news release said.
“The intense cravings, detoxification, and withdrawal symptoms involved in quitting make addiction difficult to overcome. As our strategy involves both behavioral therapy and FDA-approved medication that individuals take to help curb cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms, it can improve the odds of recovery,” said Department of Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas, who pointed out that the integrated treatment approach is popular in treating opioid addiction.
Services seen as needed
The new funding and services are part of ongoing efforts in Pennsylvania to fight the opioid epidemic.
“It’s sorely needed,” said Amy Sechrist, a certified prevention specialist at Lancaster-based Compass Mark, adding, “It’s needed for everybody.”
Compass Mark is an information resource for addiction treatment services in Lancaster County.
Similar efforts are being made at local levels. Organizations such as the Lancaster County Recovery Alliance, a nonprofit made up of recovering addicts, their family members and treatment professionals, are working to expand addiction treatment services.
Having more outpatient services is important, but the state also is struggling with a shortage of inpatient beds for addicted patients, according to Sechrist.
“Hopefully these centers can work with the person while they’re looking for a bed,” Sechrist said.