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As Opioid Crisis Worsens, New Detox And Rehab Unit To Open At UPMC McKeesport

Tim Betler
A bedroom at the new 27-bed detox and rehabiliation unit at UPMC McKeesport.

A new combined 27-bed addiction rehabilitation-detox facility will soon open at UPMC McKeesport.

UPMC said the unit, with 18 beds for detox and 9 for rehabilitation, will provide better continuity of care, since people can begin treatment in the same location where they undergo detox. 

Credit UPMC
New detox and rehabiliation unit at UPMC McKeesport.

Dawndra Jones, McKeesport's chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care, described the process as "a warm handoff."   

"We will be able to have that seamless transition," said Jones. "We believe ... that increases their success rate for recovery and getting towards wellness."

Allowing drugs or alcohol to fully leave one’s body can be a difficult and potentially dangerous process. UPMC said a benefit to having the unit based at the McKeesport hospital is that staff will be able to monitor patients with complex health conditions to help them transition to a more stable state post-detox.

Allegheny County won't release data on 2017 opioid fatalities until the spring. But this week health department director Dr. Karen Hacker warned the number will be even higher than 2016's record breaking year of 650 overdose deaths, the majority of which were opioid related. 

Credit University of Pittsburgh, OverdoseFreePA
Number of overdose fatalities in Allegheny County by drug from 2008-2017. Dataset does not include all of 2017 deaths.

"There's no question that we feel that there's more treatment that's needed in Allegheny County to help us with this opioid epidemic," said Hacker. "We're really happy to see that UPMC is making this type of effort, particularly in an area of our county where we know we have issues."

The McKeesport unit is currently waiting for state approval to open. UPMC said this could happen by the end of February if not sooner, especially in light of Gov. Tom Wolf’s recent declaration of the opioid epidemic as a public health disaster.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Pennsylvania saw more than 4,600 fatal drug overdoses in 2016, more than twice the national average.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio where she covered a range of issues, including the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.
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