HARRISBURG, PA — Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine announced two new health systems intend to build medication-assisted treatment programs for Pennsylvanians suffering from opioid use disorder who are uninsured, underinsured or privately insured.
“Our medication-assisted treatment facilities are on the front lines of working to make sure those suffering from the disease of addiction get the assistance they need to recover,” Dr. Levine said. “Through the ‘hub and spoke’ model, the primary care physicians within these health systems will have the support they need to prescribe medication-assisted treatment to their patients. Their efforts will help ensure that access is available to residents in several counties afflicted by this disease.”
Over the last few months, recent Pennsylvania Coordinated Medication Assisted Treatment grants were awarded to Lehigh Valley Health Network; Penn Medicine – Lancaster General Health; and Reading Hospital – Tower Health. Lehigh Valley Health Network was part of a previous RFA, but had not been publicly announced.
Pennsylvania’s hub-and-spoke model has an addiction specialist physician at the center as the hub, providing expert guidance and support to primary care physicians in rural and underserved areas of the state. The primary care physicians, who serve as the spokes, will provide the direct-patient care, including the medication-assisted treatment prescription. Patients also will be connected to drug and alcohol counseling in their communities.
The grant is funded through the State Opioid Response efforts received by the Wolf Administration to combat the substance use epidemic by increasing access to treatment, reducing unmet treatment need, and reducing opioid overdose-related deaths through the provision of prevention, treatment and recovery activities for opioid use disorder.
The Opioid Command Center, established in January 2018 when Gov. Wolf signed the first opioid disaster declaration, continues to meet each week to discuss the opioid crisis. The command center is staffed by personnel from 17 state agencies, spearheaded by the departments of Health and Drug and Alcohol Programs.
Earlier this month, the Opioid Command Center released its strategic plan, highlighting accomplishments to date and providing a roadmap for the continued work to help those with substance use disorder. The plan, available here, includes five goal areas: prevention, rescue, treatment, recovery and sustainability.
Work to address the opioid crisis focuses on three areas: prevention, rescue and treatment. Efforts over the past several years, working with state agencies, local, regional and federal officials, have resulted in significant action to address the opioid crisis:
- The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program has reduced opioid prescriptions by 34 percent and has virtually eliminated doctor shopping.
- The number of people receiving high dosages of opioids (defined as greater than 90 morphine milligram equivalents per day) has dropped 53 percent since the PDMP launched in August 2016.
- The Opioid Data Dashboard and Data Dashboard 2.0 has provided public-facing data regarding prevention, rescue and treatment.
- 14 Pennsylvania Coordinated Medication Assisted Treatment (PacMAT) programs are serving as part of a hub-and-spoke model to provide evidence-based treatment to people where they live, with just under $26 million dedicated into the centers.
- More than 45 Centers of Excellence, administered by the Department of Human Services, provide coordinated, evidence-based treatment to people with an opioid use disorder covered by Medicaid. The COEs have treated more than 32,500 people since first launching in 2016.
- The waiver of birth certificate fees for those with opioid use disorder has helped close to 4,700 people, enabling easier entry into recovery programs.
- A standing order signed by Dr. Rachel Levine in 2018 allowed EMS to leave behind more than 2,400 doses of naloxone.
- Education has been provided to more than 6,600 prescribers through either online or face-to-face education.
- 882 drug take-back boxes help Pennsylvanians properly dispose of unwanted drugs, including 178,540 pounds of unwanted drugs in 2019.
- The Get Help Now Hotline received close to 36,800 calls, with nearly half of all callers connected directly to a treatment provider.
- The state prison system has expanded their Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program which is viewed as a model program for other states.
- A body scanner pilot project was successful in reducing overdoses and violent crime in a number of facilities. Body scanners are in place in more than 30 locations and are currently being expanded to additional facilities.
- Several agencies have worked together to collaborate on the seizure and destruction of illicit opioids across Pennsylvania.
- Education and training on opioids have been provided to schools. Future plans are in place to make opioid education a standard component of their school-based training.
- The coordination with seven major commercial providers has expand access to naloxone and mental health care, while also working to make it more affordable.
- Naloxone has been made available to first responders through the Commission on Crime and Delinquency, with more than 63,400 kits made available and close to 12,700 saves through that program. More than half of those saves, 6,633, occurred in 2019.
- EMS have administered more than 40,300 doses of naloxone and more than 10,000 doses were made available to members of the public during the state’s naloxone distribution last year.
More information on the opioid crisis can be found on the Department of Health’s website at health.pa.gov.
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