Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a philanthropic organization that is awarding money to individual states to help combat the opioid crisis. Pennsylvania is the first state to receive funding from the overdose prevention project. The program plans to provide drug and opioid overdose prevention services with increased funding for existing services, networking, education and training. 

All of these initiatives will be overseen and enacted within individual states. Pennsylvania will receive $10 million over the next three years from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the nonprofit organization Vital Strategies to put toward drug addiction treatment and training.

Support for Existing Overdose Prevention Programs

An opioid overdose prevention program provides valuable resources for communities, usually including education, recovery resources and overdose treatment drugs and training. There are numerous programs like this nationally and in the state of Pennsylvania. Bloomberg and Vital Strategies are seeking to allocate money to strengthen existing programs at first. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that opioid-related deaths in Pennsylvania increased by 16.9% between 2016 and 2017. In 2017, the prescription rate for opioids in Pennsylvania was 57.7 per 100 people.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there are multiple resources for opioid abuse prevention and treatment in the state. Some of the prevention services already available through the state include:

  • Regularly updated drug use statistical data
  • Standing order Naloxone prescriptions
  • Direct healthcare provider referrals for addiction services
  • Non-opioid directives for patients who don’t wish to receive opioids as part of medical treatment plans
  • Continuing education programs for medical care providers
  • Guidelines for prescribing opioids

Pennsylvania follows standard practice in most of the systems they have incorporated statewide to slow the spread of opioid abuse and provide the best treatment.

Medication-Assisted Treatment Expansion in Prisons and Jails

Treatment for inmates is an important part of relapse prevention, both in addiction to drugs and illegal behaviors. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, part of inmate processing evaluates a person’s treatment needs. There are multiple services provided, including medication-assisted treatment

Currently, inmates can receive:

Methadone maintenance treatment in jail can reduce the incidence of reincarceration and help prevent prisoner overdoses after release. In addition to methadone, certain facilities in Pennsylvania provide buprenorphine and naltrexone.

Funding will enhance access for all statewide facilities to these valuable programs. It will also provide increased research and research-backed initiatives for a wider variety of therapeutic and rehabilitation practices. Funding for specialized programs, such as for pregnant or postpartum women, will also provide greater access.

Training for Law Enforcement Officers

In 2014, online prevention training and emergency procedures for an opioid overdose were mandated for Pennsylvania police officers. This includes learning how to use Naloxone in the event of opioid overdose, which is a vital part of preparing law enforcement officials. 

While this training is mandatory, there are many additional elements of educating and equipping police officers that will be strengthened by increased financial investment. Law enforcement officials are often involved in school drug prevention presentations and work with other community task forces in drug prevention initiatives. Increased funding to these programs will boost their availability and effectiveness.

Buprenorphine and Methadone in an ER Setting

Emergency Rooms (ERs) are often the place people are taken in a drug crisis or overdose. Many hospitals have opioid overdose prevention programs that includes staff training for the administration of life-saving drugs in the ER. In the event of an opioid overdose, a patient can be given buprenorphine medication-assisted treatment. When people dependent on opioids are admitted to the hospital for other health reasons, provisions are made by the Drug Enforcement Agency to allow them to receive medication-assisted treatment without a waiver.

This training is costly but can be made more available to ERs and medical professionals within Pennsylvania with assistance from the Bloomberg Funding.

Media Campaign to Reduce Stigma of Addiction

The stigma of addiction in multiple sectors of society can be a deterrent to people seeking treatment and may cause people to remain secretive about their drug use. Stigma and addiction are frequently correlated, though they can be reduced with thoughtful media efforts and effective education.

Media initiatives throughout the state of Pennsylvania continue to grow to educate the public about addiction issues. In March of 2019, officials in Philadelphia launched an advertising campaign about opioid addiction, urging people to seek treatment. 

In September of 2018, Pennsylvania won a $55.9 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. One million dollars of this was used for a public awareness media campaign. Media advertising can be excessively costly, but highly effective. The money awarded to Pennsylvania from Bloomberg and Vital Strategies will help the state project important messages about addiction and recovery to residents. 

To learn more about addiction treatment programs for opioids and other substance use disorders, contact The Recovery Village.

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