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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 Marijuana.
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 willstrive 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 subcommitteehas 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.
INTRODUCING THE MOBILE APP 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 Unitand Excela Westmoreland Hospital, have implemented the Mobile Case Manager program.
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 evaluatethe 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 Hospital.
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 expandto 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