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The Westmoreland County DrugOverdose Task Force was establishedby the county commissionersto devise and implementa plan to reverse the trend and accomplisha 25 percent reduction in overdose deathsby 2019.Prescription drugs are the driving forceof the overdose epidemic. A public healthproblem, not just a law enforcement issue,the overdose problem in WestmorelandCounty affects all residents. However,the Overdose Task Force believes thattogether, solutions can be found.The Overdose Task Force Advisory SteeringCommittee is comprised of commissionersCharles Anderson, R. TylerCourtney and Ted Kopas, along withWestmoreland County Coroner Ken Bachaand Detective Tony Marcocci. The WorkingSteering Committee includes co-chairsColleen D. Hughes, Executive Director ofWestmoreland Drug and Alcohol Commission,Inc. and Dr. Dirk Matson, Director ofHuman Services, Westmoreland County,as well as representatives from variousstakeholders throughout the county whosupport the efforts of the task force andserve as subcommittee chairs.Subcommittees of the Overdose TaskForce include Advocacy, Education/MediaOutreach, Treatment and Criminal Justice.The Advocacy Subcommittee works toeducate legislators and state departmentregulators about the overdose epidemicand has taken stands on the passage of thefollowing bills: SB 1180 – PrescriptionDrug Monitoring; HB 1164 – Naloxone/Good Samaritan and SB 1182 – MedicalMarijuana.The Education/Media Outlook Subcommitteehas been charged with the taskof educating the health care workforce,including physicians, and engaging themin the process. It will also work to increasepublic awareness and change communitystandards and attitudes regarding both substanceabuse and substance abuse relateddeaths. A media campaign will reach outto individuals through social media, PSAsand billboards. An interactive website willalso be developed.The Treatment Subcommittee’s goal isto create a welcoming environment todecrease stigma and fear of rejection.This subcommittee will work to enhancetreatment services to engage individualsthrough a full continuum of care.The Criminal Justice Subcommittee willstrive to provide more diversion opportunitiesfor low risk offenders in thecriminal justice system and better coordinateand evaluate offenders’ successfulcommunity re-entry. This subcommitteehas applied for a grant that would fund adiversion program, diversion coordinatorsand a Risk Assessment. It has alsopartnered with the University of Pittsburghat Greensburg to formulate a re-entry planaddressing re-entry services.Lastly, along with the work of the subcommittees,community member representativeswill be responsible for keeping theOverdose Task Force, and the communityat large, accountable The communitymembers have the important role of servingas the eyes and ears of the WestmorelandCounty community.INTRODUCING THE MOBILE APPIn a collaborative effort to continue to addressthe drug overdose issues in WestmorelandCounty, Westmoreland Drug andAlcohol Commission, Inc., SouthwesternPennsylvania Human Services (SPHS)Drug and Alcohol Case Management Unitand Excela Westmoreland Hospital, haveimplemented the Mobile Case Managerprogram.The goal of the Mobile Case Managerinitiative is to make sure survivors ofoverdoses receive immediate hand-offsto appropriate drug and alcohol servicesonce they have been medically stabilized.Without treatment, overdose victims are ata high risk of overdosing again.The Mobile Case Manager will work todivert patients from the hospital emergencyroom and send them to non-hospitaldetox and inpatient rehabilitation services.The Mobile Case Manager will evaluatethe patient for level of care needed, initiatefunding and/or authorization for detoxand/or residential services, set up admissionto those services and coordinate transportationto residential services directlyfrom the emergency room.Phase One of the Mobile Case Managerprogram began in June. This phase hasa Mobile Case Manager working 3 to 11p.m. shifts three days a week at the BehavioralHealth Unit at Excela WestmorelandHospital.Phase Two will include an after-hours,on-call process that will have Mobile CaseManagers on call to go to Excela WestmorelandHospital to meet with an individual.The Mobile Case Manager will arriveat the hospital within two hours of thereferral. It is anticipated the Mobile CaseManager program will eventually expandto other hospitals throughout the county,including Frick and Latrobe hospitals.The expected outcomes of the MobileCase Manager program include offeringdrug and alcohol assessments to alloverdose survivors entering the hospital;offering drug and alcohol assessments toall substance abusing patients in psychiatricinpatient, the med surge unit or thoseinvolved in the Crisis Response Centerand, lastly, providing information on accessingtreatment services to all patientswho survived an overdose and refused adrug and alcohol assessment.
From The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania: County News Magazine, Sept.-Oct., 2014