Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today detailed the plans for implementation of the $55.9 million federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant secured last week for the state’s response to the opioid epidemic. The planned initiatives focus on prevention, treatment, recovery, education, and training.
“Pennsylvania continues to develop comprehensive ways to battle the opioid crisis, with a continued focus on increasing access to medication-assisted treatment and initiatives centered around evidence-based practices,” Governor Wolf said. “The initiatives are holistic and sustainable and will help us accurately tie programs to community needs, ensuring we are helping the most people fight and win this battle.”
The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), along with Governor Wolf’s office, led the application effort with multiple state agencies now charged with implementing and tracking each initiative.
“In order to effectively support individuals battling this disease, it is critical to offer wrap around services to address barriers hindering their recovery,” said DDAP Secretary Jen Smith. “The entire administration worked together to submit the successful application – a true testament of a ‘Government that Works.’ It is so important that we recognize that each individual battling addiction is just that – an individual with unique circumstances and challenges. We must continue to work together to offer services and supports that fit their needs. I look forward to continuing this collaboration to bring these projects to life.”
The initiatives included in this grant focus on three overarching “buckets,” including housing supports and assistance, criminal justice and law enforcement initiatives with a focus on reentrant supports and prevention, and workforce development strategies.
Opioid housing initiative
Led by the Department of Human Services (DHS) in partnership with the Pennsylvania Housing and Finance Agency, the opioid housing initiative will direct $15 million for pre-tenancy and tenancy supports and rental assistance for individuals with opioid use disorder in need of supportive housing.
Also, the grant prioritizes an additional $2 million in funding to develop person-centered Health Homes to provide comprehensive physical and behavioral health care to pregnant women with OUD. These Health Homes will improve access to high-quality care for pregnant women living with OUD.
“As we treat a person’s substance use disorder, we need to think broadly about what barriers to recovery may be,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “Access to safe, reliable housing is an important part of living a healthy life. The Health Homes will ensure that pregnant women have a safe and stable home that allows them to focus on their recovery and their baby’s needs.”
Criminal justice programs and law enforcement initiatives with a focus on re-entry supports and prevention
The grant funding will allow the Department of Corrections to significantly expand access to all three FDA-approved medication-assisted treatments (MATs) to re-entrants and support the agency’s efforts to hire an in-house addiction medicine specialist.
“We know that medication to treat substance use disorder is not one-size-fits-all,” said Corrections Secretary John Wetzel. “By making available all FDA-approved medications, we will increase the possibility that each individual afflicted with this disease will get what works best for them and thus increase the chance of a successful course of treatment. The addition of a DOC addiction specialist will provide the expertise needed to continue to implement these MAT options in an evidence-based, systematic, and effective way.”
In addition, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) will use its Overdose Information Network (ODIN) to identify areas of the state most severely affected by drug trafficking and use grant funding to increase community policing in those areas.
PSP will also utilize grant dollars to increase awareness of and access to treatment for individuals with OUD and their loved ones.
The Department of Health will lead the establishment of a Pennsylvania OUD Loan Repayment Program to provide loan repayment for eligible health care practitioners who work in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and specialize in treating individuals with OUD.
“Access to medical professionals is essential to helping Pennsylvanians recover from this disease,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “With more medical professionals trained to treat patients suffering from opioid use disorder, especially in our most underserved areas, we will be able to improve their health outcomes and save lives.”
In addition to the priority buckets detailed above, increasing access to treatment and recovery supports through Pennsylvanian’s 47 Single County Authorities (SCAs) will remain a top focus.
The grant will also support the development of regional programs focusing on the education, prevention, or identification of OUD for Pennsylvania veterans, their families or caregivers and the identification of resources available for referral for treatment. This collaborative effort will combine local, state and federal government partners, veterans’ service organizations, and service providers across the commonwealth in a regional effort to combat this crisis.
Complementing this significant federal investment are two, $26.5 million grants that have been received over the past two years from SAMHSA as part of the 21st Century CURES Act. With the new SAMHSA grant, Pennsylvania has received a total of $108 million in federal funding to fight the opioid epidemic.
For more information on the Wolf Administration’s efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, visit governor.pa.gov.