"Whole person" treatment proposed for those addicted to heroin, opioids

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Jun 2, 2016 4:28 AM

(Harrisburg) -- The list of potential solutions to the opioid crisis that has killed thousands of Pennsylvanians is long, and many state lawmakers are interested in addressing the crisis.

For their part, the Wolf administration is pushing a new proposal to treat people who are already addicted to heroin or other drugs.

Wolf's Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas is calling it a "center of excellence".

It will bring together health care providers, family members, and community resources like food banks and housing providers to help address someone's addiction.

"There are a bunch of reasons that people have substance use disorders, and a health home or a center of excellence, is about finding a way to treat that whole person and get them there," says DHS Secretary Dallas.

Wolf has asked for more than $34 million in his budget proposal to fund 50 centers statewide.

Dallas says they're finding that people often drop out of treatment.

"Don't get me wrong, it's better that folks have access to treatment than they did before with the Medicaid expansion. But if we don't go that next step, and we don't find ways to engage folks in treatment that works, or at least works more effectively than the treatment we do now, we'll never fully address the opioid epidemic facing Pennsylvania," he adds.

Dallas says the centers of excellence would attack the root cause of the addiction.

The state has already started creating centers for pregnant women only, using existing money, and Dallas hopes the Legislature will approve funding to expand their efforts to add centers for all people who are addicted to drugs.

More than 115 health systems, treatment providers, and others submitted applications for the 50 proposed centers.

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