The Wolf Administration continues to back the idea that the overdose-reversal drug Naloxone has worked in the state’s fight against addiction, but realize it’s not enough.
Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says the next step involves getting someone who is abusing drugs directly into treatment. It’s an approach known as the “warm handoff.”
“As the commonwealth invests in naloxone to increase rescue opportunities for first responders around Pennsylvania, we must ensure that individuals who survive an overdose are given a
warm hand-off and understand treatment options available in their community,” said DDAP Secretary Jennifer Smith. “Fighting this crisis requires coordination at all levels, and these
summits allowed stakeholders to engage in open dialogue, establish new relationships, and work towards stronger partnerships that will get overdose survivors into the treatment they need
to reach recovery.”
In February 2017, the departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs and Health, and Pennsylvania chapter of the College of Emergency Physicians released a clinical pathway designed to create an easy transition from care for an opioid overdose to treatment for an opioid use disorder. County drug and alcohol authorities are now required to establish a warm hand-off policy as part of the 2015-2020 grant agreement between DDAP and the Single County Authorities (SCAs).
Warm hand-off programs exist around the commonwealth at varying levels of implementation and summits were held to address challenges and facilitate partnerships to share best practices
and devise solutions. Evaluations completed by summit participants found that 93 percent of participants learned at least one idea to improve their warm hand-off process and discovered
ways to collaborate with other stakeholders to achieve better results for patients with a substance use disorder. Additionally, 85 percent of participants said that they intend to pursue
at least one idea mentioned by each summit’s key presenter.
“The warm hand-off convenings allowed us to discuss the importance of the warm handoff process with the numerous stakeholders who play a role in helping to get a person into
treatment,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “This facilitated referral is often the first step toward recovery. Treatment works and recovery is possible for those who are struggling
with the disease of opioid use disorder.”
State officials say they’re continuing to hold meetings with local leaders in each county to strengthen warm handoff programs and bolster treatment efforts across the state.