Harrisburg, PA – On October 18, 2019, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller joined the Center of Excellence (COE) Regional Learning Network to meet with COEs in Central Pennsylvania and hear directly from their employees about the successes and challenges of fighting the opioid epidemic. Since 2017, Pennsylvania’s 45 COEs have expanded access to and improved engagement in treatment to more than 20,500 Medicaid recipients around Pennsylvania.
“It goes without saying that our goal is to save lives and help people get the treatment they need to live healthy lives,” said Secretary Miller. “We want to be sure we are doing everything we can to fight the opioid epidemic and give people the resources they need to be successful in recovery, and the COE model is making that possible for more Pennsylvanians. We know, though, that there is still more work to be done. The Regional Learning Network gives us the opportunity to learn from COE employees since they are hearing directly from the people we are helping and can help inform our response to the opioid crisis moving forward.”
Prior to the COEs, as few as 48 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries diagnosed with opioid use disorder were receiving treatment. Of those, only 33 percent remained engaged in treatment for more than 30 days. Today, more than 70 percent receive treatment after being diagnosed with an opioid use disorder, and 62 percent remain in treatment for more than 30 days.
The Regional Learning Network is made up of representatives from each COE in a region. The networks meet regularly to determine best practices for addressing the opioid epidemic. Each year, all of the Regional Learning Networks come together for a Statewide Learning Network to share and explore best practices.
COEs provide treatment that is team-based and whole-person focused, with a goal of integrating substance use disorder treatment, behavioral health, and primary care. The centers’ care managers work to keep people with OUD engaged in treatment by coordinating follow-up care and community supports. Their work confronts the most common barriers to treatment and provides vital support to maintain recovery.
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, emergency departments, social services providers, and other treatment providers and referral sources. With a commitment to educating the community, the COE team works to ensure health care, education, and law enforcement organizations can identify those who need treatment and refer them to the center.
For more information on the state’s efforts to battle the opioid epidemic, visit www.pa.gov/opioids.