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Family First Health nets $500,000 ‘excellence’ grant

York-based Family First Health intends to be a “go-to” source in York County for people who need addiction treatment services, CEO Jenny Englerth said. A grant of $500,000 from the state is putting that goal within reach.

Family First is one of three midstate facilities to receive funds this week from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to become what is known as a Center of Excellence.

The centers serve Medicaid patients with substance use disorder by integrating addiction treatment and primary health care to help treat patients who are addicted to opioid pain pills and heroin. 

In addition to Family First, the department also designated Hamilton Health Center in Dauphin County and Lancaster General Hospital in Lancaster County as Centers of Excellence, according to an announcement yesterday from Gov. Tom Wolf.

Family First, Hamilton Health and LG Hospital are among 25 centers slated to open by Jan. 1 across the state.

The centers are part of Pennsylvania’s ongoing effort to combat a spike in opioid pain pill and heroin use, which has led to a growing number of overdose deaths.

Drug-related deaths in Pennsylvania increased 30 percent in 2015 over 2014, according to the 2015 Pennsylvania State Coroners Association Drug Report. Most deaths were the result of multiple prescription drugs, either alone or with the addition of heroin or cocaine.

York County, with a total of 99 drug-related deaths, suffered the most fatalities in Central Pennsylvania’s five-county region, the report said.

That number actually declined from 2014, when York County marked 120 drug-related deaths.

2015 Drug related deaths by county

Dauphin 82
Cumberland 41
Lancaster 80
Lebanon 20
York 99

Funds provide broader community impact

Family First already offers some addiction treatment services, but “this infusion of resources will support our ability to work with others to have broader community impact verses a more narrow focus on our existing patients,” Englerth said.

Family First will start adding services in York with the provided funding, and then it will develop access points for treatment at key locations throughout the county.

Family First’s vision is to create a hub for treatment using existing resources while at the same time filling gaps as it finds them.

For instance, as a Center of Excellence, Family First will be licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to provide FDA-approved medications, which when coupled with support services such as therapy, studies show that the medications can decrease the likelihood of a relapse.

Before being designated as a Center of Excellence, Family First was already moving toward providing medication-assisted treatment through a different $350,000 grant, according to spokeswoman Kate Harmon.

In providing additional services, Family First plans to add dedicated staff as needed, Englerth said.

Central Pa. to have six Centers of Excellence

Last month, Gov. Tom Wolf first announced the state’s initiative to create Centers of Excellence, and now there are 45 designated centers, six of which are in Central Pennsylvania in Dauphin, Lancaster and York Counties.

The midstate facilities designated last month include TW Ponessa & Associates Counseling Services Inc. in Lancaster County and Pennsylvania Counseling Services in Dauphin and York Counties.

The centers are funded by money that was allotted to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services in the 2016-2017 budget for behavioral health services, which then allowed the department to draw additional funding from the federal government.

Altogether, the money totals $20.4 million, according to a news release.

Lenay Ruhl

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