News from Governor Wolf and other PA State Departments and Bureaus

 

March 1, 2018

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Governor Wolf Announces End to Policy that Delays Access to Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder
Removal of Barrier to Treatment is part of Disaster Declaration

Chester, PA – At a press conference at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland today, Governor Tom Wolf announced an initiative to remove barriers to people receiving medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. The governor followed the announcement with a tour of the Crozer-Keystone Health System's First Steps Treatment Center, one year into operation to provide holistic residential treatment for substance use disorder.

“I am here to announce that, going forward, my administration will be ending policies that delay access to treatment for those suffering from opioid use disorders in our Medicaid program,” Governor Wolf said. “Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program will be waiving prior authorization requirements for evidence-based opioid use disorder treatments.”

FDA-approved treatments, known as medication-assisted treatment, or MATs, when combined with counseling and behavioral therapies, are proven strategies for reducing addiction relapse and improving the chance for recovery.

However, prior authorization rules can delay MAT, sometimes for up to 24 hours, when people need treatment the most.

“If even one person is delayed access to the treatment they need, it is one person too many,” Governor Wolf said. “Over the coming months, my administration will be reaching out to each of the commercial payers and the Medicaid managed care organizations to begin discussions around similar policies with the goal of creating consistency in coverage across the healthcare sector in Pennsylvania.”

“On behalf of our entire community I would like to thank Governor Wolf and our state legislators, for their tireless efforts focusing on the opioid epidemic” said Patrick Gavin, the chief executive officer of Crozer-Keystone Health System. “This grant enables us to be available to those in need of services throughout our community where they live and work.  It enhances our ability to have a complete continuum of care, linking both the outpatient services and the inpatient treatment center, made possible through collaboration with our county officials.”

Today’s announcement is one piece of the state’s larger efforts to fight the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic. In January, Governor Wolf declared a public health emergency via a 90-day disaster declaration in Pennsylvania to bring together resources and focus efforts.

In the declaration, Governor Wolf directed state agencies to focus on 13 initiatives that are the culmination of a collaboration between all state agencies, to enhance coordination and data collection to bolster state and local response, improve tools for families, first responders and others to save lives, and to speed up and expand access to treatment.

The Unified Command Group, housed at PEMA as part of the disaster declaration, recently announced progress halfway into the 90-day declaration:

Monitoring weekly naloxone use by EMS providers;
Ensuring that EMS providers have access to naloxone made available from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency;
Working with emergency medical services to ensure naloxone is left behind for patients who are at risk of overdosing;
Receiving more than 100 reports of neonatal abstinence syndrome cases under diagnostic criteria created by the Department of Health as part of the declaration;
Waiving application fees for more than 30 birth certificate applicants who need a birth certificate to get treatment for a substance use disorder;
Reducing overdoses and increasing facility safety through the use of a piloted body scanner at Wernersville Community Correctional Facility;
Granting exemptions for annual licensing requirements to more than 60 high-performing treatment providers.

“The newest initiative – removing barriers to treatment – is one more tool in our toolbelt to fight this scourge on our state and our people, and I encourage all insurers to get behind this and join me in this fight,” Governor Wolf said.

For more information on fighting the opioid crisis is Pennsylvania, visit www.pa.gov/opioids.


February 28, 2018 
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Governor Wolf Announces Year-One Successes of Centers of Excellence
Initiative provides high-quality services to individuals with opioid use disorder

Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Tom Wolf announced the successes achieved during the first year of operation for the 45 Centers of Excellence (COEs) across the Commonwealth. Since 2016, the governor’s administration has funded these statewide centers through the Department of Human Services to get more people suffering with opioid use disorder (OUD) into treatment sooner and engaged in treatment longer.

“Centers of Excellence have proven themselves to be a critical part of our efforts to improve treatment for people suffering with opioid use disorder,” Governor Wolf said. “It is critical that we continue to do everything we can to combat this epidemic and, with these centers, individuals suffering from OUD have access to treatment in their communities for the whole person, instead of just the disease.”

Successes during the first year of implementation include:

14,654 individuals have interacted with a COE;
10,903 individuals have received a level-of-care assessment, which helps to determine the type, level, and length of treatment;
71 percent of individuals seen by a COE have been engaged in treatment (including residential, outpatient, and medication-assisted treatment); and
62 percent of individuals have been engaged in treatment for at least 30 days.

Prior to these centers, as few as 48 percent of Medicaid patients diagnosed with OUD were receiving treatment. Of those, only 33 percent remained engaged in treatment for more than 30 days.

COEs provide treatment that is team-based and focused on the whole person, with a goal of integrating behavioral health and primary care. The center’s care managers work to keep people with OUD in treatment, including coordinating follow-up care and community supports.

COEs work as a hub-and-spoke network, with the designated center serving as the hub. The spokes can include primary care practices, the criminal justice system, other treatment providers, and other referral sources.

The administration’s efforts have resulted in the development of integrated systems that are:

Enabling addiction and other physical and mental health issues to be treated simultaneously;
Closing treatment system gaps using community-based care management teams, so fewer people seeking recovery relapse;
Expanding access to medications that help people recover from addiction; and
Developing relationships with other treatment providers, the criminal justice system, primary care practices, emergency departments, and other potential referral sources where people with OUD might present.

“During the first year of implementation for any wide-scale project, there are inevitable lessons learned,” Acting Secretary for the Department of Human Services Teresa Miller said. “We are using those things we’ve learned to further enhance our efforts to help combat this epidemic that affects every Pennsylvanian in some way.”

Governor Wolf and state agencies have been increasing efforts in the fight against prescription drug abuse in multiple areas, including numerous programs and initiatives:

  • Working with the legislature to establish a new law limiting the number of opioids that can be prescribed to a minor and to individuals discharged from emergency rooms to seven days;
  • Strengthening the PDMP through the legislative process so that doctors are required and able to check the system each time they prescribe opioids and benzodiazepines;
  • Forming new prescribing guidelines to help doctors who provide opioid prescriptions to their patients, including guidelines specific to orthopedics and sports medicine;
  • Creating warm handoff guidelines to facilitate referrals from the emergency department to substance abuse treatment;
  • Teaming with the legislature to establish education curriculum on safe prescribing for medical schools; and
  • Awarding four $1 million grants for medication-assisted treatment using a hub and spoke model for Pennsylvanians who are uninsured, under-insured or have private insurance.

For more information on the state’s efforts to battle the opioid epidemic, visit https://www.pa.gov/guides/opioid-epidemic/.