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The original item was published from 9/24/2014 1:19:22 PM to 9/24/2014 1:53:47 PM.

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Human Services

Posted on: September 24, 2014

[ARCHIVED] A County Answer to the Drug Epidemic

The Westmoreland County Drug
Overdose Task Force was established
by the county commissioners
to devise and implement
a plan to reverse the trend and accomplish
a 25 percent reduction in overdose deaths
by 2019.
Prescription drugs are the driving force
of the overdose epidemic. A public health
problem, not just a law enforcement issue,
the overdose problem in Westmoreland
County affects all residents. However,
the Overdose Task Force believes that
together, solutions can be found.
The Overdose Task Force Advisory Steering
Committee is comprised of commissioners
Charles Anderson, R. Tyler
Courtney and Ted Kopas, along with
Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha
and Detective Tony Marcocci. The Working
Steering Committee includes co-chairs
Colleen D. Hughes, Executive Director of
Westmoreland Drug and Alcohol Commission,
Inc. and Dr. Dirk Matson, Director of
Human Services, Westmoreland County,
as well as representatives from various
stakeholders throughout the county who
support the efforts of the task force and
serve as subcommittee chairs.
Subcommittees of the Overdose Task
Force include Advocacy, Education/Media
Outreach, Treatment and Criminal Justice.
The Advocacy Subcommittee works to
educate legislators and state department
regulators about the overdose epidemic
and has taken stands on the passage of the
following bills: SB 1180 – Prescription
Drug Monitoring; HB 1164 – Naloxone/
Good Samaritan and SB 1182 – Medical
The Education/Media Outlook Subcommittee
has been charged with the task
of educating the health care workforce,
including physicians, and engaging them
in the process. It will also work to increase
public awareness and change community
standards and attitudes regarding both substance
abuse and substance abuse related
deaths. A media campaign will reach out
to individuals through social media, PSAs
and billboards. An interactive website will
also be developed.
The Treatment Subcommittee’s goal is
to create a welcoming environment to
decrease stigma and fear of rejection.
This subcommittee will work to enhance
treatment services to engage individuals
through a full continuum of care.
The Criminal Justice Subcommittee will
strive to provide more diversion opportunities
for low risk offenders in the
criminal justice system and better coordinate
and evaluate offenders’ successful
community re-entry. This subcommittee
has applied for a grant that would fund a
diversion program, diversion coordinators
and a Risk Assessment. It has also
partnered with the University of Pittsburgh
at Greensburg to formulate a re-entry plan
addressing re-entry services.
Lastly, along with the work of the subcommittees,
community member representatives
will be responsible for keeping the
Overdose Task Force, and the community
at large, accountable The community
members have the important role of serving
as the eyes and ears of the Westmoreland
County community.
In a collaborative effort to continue to address
the drug overdose issues in Westmoreland
County, Westmoreland Drug and
Alcohol Commission, Inc., Southwestern
Pennsylvania Human Services (SPHS)
Drug and Alcohol Case Management Unit
and Excela Westmoreland Hospital, have
implemented the Mobile Case Manager
The goal of the Mobile Case Manager
initiative is to make sure survivors of
overdoses receive immediate hand-offs
to appropriate drug and alcohol services
once they have been medically stabilized.
Without treatment, overdose victims are at
a high risk of overdosing again.
The Mobile Case Manager will work to
divert patients from the hospital emergency
room and send them to non-hospital
detox and inpatient rehabilitation services.
The Mobile Case Manager will evaluate
the patient for level of care needed, initiate
funding and/or authorization for detox
and/or residential services, set up admission
to those services and coordinate transportation
to residential services directly
from the emergency room.
Phase One of the Mobile Case Manager
program began in June. This phase has
a Mobile Case Manager working 3 to 11
p.m. shifts three days a week at the Behavioral
Health Unit at Excela Westmoreland
Phase Two will include an after-hours,
on-call process that will have Mobile Case
Managers on call to go to Excela Westmoreland
Hospital to meet with an individual.
The Mobile Case Manager will arrive
at the hospital within two hours of the
referral. It is anticipated the Mobile Case
Manager program will eventually expand
to other hospitals throughout the county,
including Frick and Latrobe hospitals.
The expected outcomes of the Mobile
Case Manager program include offering
drug and alcohol assessments to all
overdose survivors entering the hospital;
offering drug and alcohol assessments to
all substance abusing patients in psychiatric
inpatient, the med surge unit or those
involved in the Crisis Response Center
and, lastly, providing information on accessing
treatment services to all patients
who survived an overdose and refused a
drug and alcohol assessment.

From The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania: County News Magazine, Sept.-Oct., 2014

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