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Substance Use Disorder Prevention and Treatment Efforts Continue During COVID-19

July 23, 2020

Pennsylvania officials this week made several announcements advancing the state’s continuing efforts to stem the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania.

Governor Wolf first proclaimed heroin and opioid addiction a public health emergency in Pennsylvania on January 10, 2018, with the issuance of a state Disaster Declaration. The 90-day declaration has been renewed nine times and substance use disorder remains a priority in Pennsylvania.

New announcements released this week include:

  • Two new prescribing guidelines were issued: Guidelines for the Safe Administration of Subanesthetic Ketamine and Treatment of Acute and Chronic Pain in Patients With Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). Other prescribing guidelines available to providers are available at the Department of Health’s website.
  • The latest Pennsylvania Coordinated Medication Assisted Treatment (PacMAT) grant recipients were announced by the Department of Health. Grant funding was awarded to Lehigh Valley Health Network; Penn Medicine — Lancaster General Health and Reading Hospital — Tower Health. This funding is critical toward increasing access to medication-assisted treatment and other efforts that prevent overdose-related deaths, and includes support for individuals who are uninsured, underinsured or with private insurance.
  • A newly formed partnership through Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs with Shatterpoof, a national nonprofit organization that is working to end the stigma often associated with substance use disorder and reverse the addiction crisis. Pennsylvania is the first state partner; other founding partners include The Hartford and the Brian Mendell Memorial Foundation.  

Earlier this month, the state’s Opioid Command Center released a 2020–2023 Strategic Plan noting past achievements and providing a structure moving forward. The plan outlines five main areas of focus:

  • Prevention
  • Rescue
  • Treatment
  • Recovery
  • Sustainability

HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospitals and health systems continue to address the impact of the opioid epidemic in their communities, even within the context of the COVID-19 emergency. Through the HAP Opioid Learning Action Network, hospitals continue to work collaboratively to implement promising practices aimed at reducing overdoses and connect patients with substance use disorder to effective treatment. Over the past four months, hospitals have met to share learnings on how to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on their substance use disorder care delivery practices.

For more information about HAP’s Opioid LAN, contact Jennifer Jordan, HAP’s vice president, regulatory advocacy