County Council Launches
Trained specialists will connect with drug overdose victims to encourage treatment
As the nation wrestles with a deadly heroin/opioid epidemic, Delaware County Council is adding another strategy to its battle against addiction – a recovery lifeline that may lead to treatment and saving lives on a long-term basis.
Two trained recovery specialists are now available to respond to reports of an overdose with the end goal of connecting those overdose victims to a treatment program.
"Survivors of opioid overdose and their loved ones have experienced a traumatic event. This new program is one lifeline that can help people get help and treat their addiction," said Delaware County Councilman Dave White, Council's liaison to the Department of Human Services that oversees Drug and Alcohol programs. "Survivors of an overdose have experienced a life-changing and traumatic event, and so have their families. Most need tremendous support to take the next steps to recovery. That is our goal with this new Recovery Specialist Program."
Councilman White made the announcement at Springfield Hospital, which is part of the Crozer-Keystone Health System, just outside of the Emergency Room. Crozer-Keystone operates four of the six emergency rooms in Delaware County. White was joined by representatives of the Emergency Medicine departments of the county's three health systems.
County Council and the Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health, secured a grant of $125,000 from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) to focus on overdose prevention from a treatment perspective.
This new road to recovery initiative is being launched Friday, April 1, and it is a continuation of the work being done by the county and the Delaware County Heroin Task Force.
At the March 9 County Council meeting, Council approved the hiring of two certified recovery specialists (CRSs) who will be alerted when an overdose victim is taken to a hospital. While working within the guidelines of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), the hospital staff will advise the patient and their family about the CRS resource.
The goal of the program is to work with the county's seven emergency room teams to reach overdose survivors and connect them with a recovery specialist.
In partnership with efforts by the Delaware County Heroin Task Force, local police and emergency medical responders are having success in reviving overdose victims with the opioid antidote naloxone, or Narcan. It quickly became evident that the next critical step is to connect those survivors immediately to stop the addiction cycle.
Since Delaware County police officers were authorized to administer the life-saving drug naloxone to overdose victims in late 2014, officers have saved the lives of 204 individuals. But there was little opportunity for follow-up with the overdose survivors after they left the hospital.
"People kept saying, 'it's great you are saving lives with naloxone, or Narcan, but what's next?'" said Councilman Dave White. "We knew we needed to connect these overdose survivors with treatment, which means helping them through the complex process of accessing a treatment program."
"Today's announcement of this Recovery Specialist Program is a huge step in giving survivors and their families hope, in changing lives, in ending addiction," White said. "We knew that reviving an overdose victim was only one step. Ending their addiction is our ultimate goal."
Routinely when an individual is administered naloxone and is revived from what would have been a fatal overdose, the individual is taken to one of Delaware County's seven hospital emergency rooms.
The goal is for the hospital emergency room staff to alert the county CRS and to advise the patient and his family about the opportunity to meet with a recovery specialist. Information about the program will be included with the individual's hospital discharge papers.
Emergency Department representatives included Dr. Gregory Cuculino from Crozer-Keystone, Dr. Brad Bendesky from Mercy Health System and ER Nurse Heike Doody from Riddle Hospital. The hope is that the individual and family will learn about treatment options, insurance options, support groups and other resources that will help the person overcome their addiction.
"This is a person-driven process," said Linda Moore-Singleton, assistant drug and alcohol administrator with the Office of Behavioral Health. "Once the individual or family member calls us, the recovery specialists can help them understand the process, including insurance, detox or any other level of treatment that is needed."
Delaware County's Office of Behavioral Health has always connected people with treatment, but the Recovery Specialist Program is a new effort that will target overdose survivors. Once an overdose is reversed, the underlying problem that led to opioid use still exists and required attention.
The CRS is well-versed in the Drug and Alcohol system and can assist people with applying for insurance, setting up appointments and navigating the various treatment options. They are certified through the Pennsylvania Certification Board after an intensive two-week training period.
In addition to the Recovery Specialist Program, Delaware County has increased its treatment capacity. The county now has access to 140 detox beds and is in the process of increasing that by 100 beds for a total of 240.
In 2015, more than 4,000 Delaware County individuals accessed drug and alcohol treatment programs that are publically-funded. That does not include people who undergo rehab through their own insurance or private pay.
"We want to stress that this is one piece of the drug addiction puzzle," White said. "We also want to stress that this is everyone's problem. This can happen to anyone, any family, in any neighborhood. An overdose victim is someone's daughter or son, someone's family member."
"We are addressing this drug epidemic on many fronts, through law enforcement, the use of Narcan, outreach, prescription monitoring systems, education of young people and treatment. This is one more road that we hope leads to recovery," White said.
To reach a Delaware County Certified Recovery Specialist call 610-713-2384.
New recovery strategy in war on drugs
Delaware County Councilman Dave White (center) was joined by Delaware County Council and members of the Emergency Medicine departments at the county's three health systems to announce a new Recovery Specialist program aimed at connecting drug overdose survivors with treatment. Shown at the announcement at Springfield Hospital are, from left, Dr. Brad Bendesky from Mercy Health System, Dr. Gregory Cuculino and Dr. Kevin Caputo from Crozer-Keystone Health System, Nurse Heike Doody from Riddle Hospital, Main Line Health System, County Executive Director Marianne Grace, White, District Attorney Jack Whelan, Councilman Mike Culp, Human Services Director Joe Dougherty and Councilman John McBlain.