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20 Centers Of Excellence Treating Opioid Addiction To Open By Fall

Marisa Acevedo
90.5 WESA

Twenty Centers of Excellence, which will treat Pennsylvanians struggling with addiction, will open by Oct. 1.

This would help the roughly 4,500 people across Pennsylvania suffering from opioid use disorders who do not have access to treatment.

The program is part of Gov. Tom Wolf’s initiative to combat substance addiction in the state. Pennsylvania has the highest rate of drug overdoses among men ages 12 to 25, and ninth in drug overdoses among the country.

The Centers of Excellence are pre-existing medical assistance organizations that will undergo new certification from the Department of Health, bringing together additional resources such as food banks and housing providers. Once approved, they will provide emergency addiction treatment and behavioral health services for opioid-dependent patients with Medicaid.

The community-based centers will take a comprehensive approach, striving to treat the “whole person.” Care management teams will examine how the patient’s substance abuse disorder is affected by his or her physical and mental health.

Ted Dallas, secretary of the Department of Human Services, said this multidimensional approach is a step away from the typical addiction treatment system.

In the current treatment path, he said, professionals diagnose a patient with an opioid dependency, but then leave it up to the patient to navigate healthcare and insurance services.

According to the Department of Human Services, many patients with opioid use disorders need help to stay active in the treatment process. Without care management, they’re more likely to receive inadequate care and even relapse.

The Opioid Use Centers of Excellence will ensure that patients receive comprehensive support by integrating physical care with behavioral health.

“About 100,000 people (out of those on Medicaid) also have a behavioral health issue, and in most cases, the behavioral health issue is fueling the substance use disorder,” Dallas said. “So, if you only treat the substance use disorder, and you don’t address the behavioral health issue, you’re probably not going to be successful.”

So far, $15 million of the 2016-17 budget has been allocated to fighting heroin and opioid addiction. Gov. Wolf initially requested $34 million, aiming to create 50 Centers of Excellence statewide.

If funding goes through, Dallas said, the Department of Health plans to approve another round of Centers of Excellence by mid-August, with an anticipated opening deadline set for January.

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