Centers of Excellence

Pennsylvania has the third-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country in 2017, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many people at the highest risk for an overdose death have an opioid use disorder (OUD), however, only approximately 20 percent access treatment. Access to and capacity of evidence-based OUD treatment, including Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is limited, which delays and can prevent individuals from entering into treatment programs, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Alongside treatment, many other services are needed to keep the individual healthy, safe, and well such as housing, transportation, child care, and employment training.

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In 2016, Governor Tom Wolf introduced the Centers of Excellence for Opioid Use Disorder (COE) as one solution to the growing overdose crisis within the state, as well as a solution to the barrier of engaging and retaining clients with OUD in treatment. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) selected 45 centers including primary care practices, hospitals, Federally Qualified Health Centers, substance use disorder (SUD) treatment providers, and single county authorities. The COEs were designed to engage the community to identify all persons with OUD and make sure every person with OUD achieves optimal health. This means COEs take care of the whole person, including OUD treatment, physical health treatment such as diabetes management, and mental health treatment such as anxiety or depression treatment. It also means that COEs provides hand-in-hand support to every person with OUD, including providing every person with OUD a peer who helps the person process all steps in the recovery process and providing every person with a community based care management team who helps the person identify, organize, obtain, and sustain treatment/non-treatment resources.

Ensuring every person with OUD achieves optimal health involves the coordination of care across multiple domains, including physical, mental, and behavioral health and social needs including job training, housing and transportation support, education services, and childcare, among others. The COEs offer a variety of services on-site, while others are made available to clients through community partners.

The COEs across the commonwealth have also created community-based care management teams to assist with care coordination and recovery support for their clients. The community-based care management teams consist of a diverse group of providers including Licensed Clinical Social Workers, counselors, Certified Recovery Specialists, nurses, peer navigators, care managers, and physicians. The care management teams work together to ensure that clients' care is coordinated across all domains and that all treatment and non-treatment needs are addressed, either through on-site services or through referrals. The individual also engages with recovery support personnel who walk side-by-side with clients through their recovery journey. Recovery support personnel are integral members of the care management team and often provide support for clients during off hours and weekends.

Gov. Wolf's administration is working to provide real solutions to save lives and help people get the treatment they need to live long, productive lives. For more information about opioid addiction services in Pennsylvania, click here.