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Battling an Epidemic

by UPMC Susquehanna

The opioid epidemic is a leading public health crisis. UPMC is committed to preventing this disease and providing care and treatment to those suffering from addiction.

The Addiction Medicine service line at UPMC Susquehanna is helping to tackle a national problem — opioid addiction — by initiating warm handoffs and medication therapy for opioid use disorder.

Alex Johnson

Alex Johnson, director, Addiction Medicine at UPMC Susquehanna said, "In 2017, there was a period of 48 hours where 52 overdoses were presented to our Emergency Department (ED) in Williamsport. We recognized that many of the patients suffering from a substance use disorder were not getting the help they needed, so we launched a program to get them help on the front lines."

Warm Handoffs Help Patients Transition to Treatment 

Warm handoff (WHO) programs help guide overdose survivors and patients with substance use disorder into treatment by directly transferring patients from the hospital to a drug treatment provider.

UPMC Susquehanna's WHO program began in April 2018 and provides direct peer navigator engagement to any ED or hospitalized patient suffering from a substance use disorder. 

During the first month of the program, 27 warm handoffs were done. This past May had the highest number of warm handoffs with nearly 100 face-to-face visits.

Since WHO started, Alex said, "We are seeing approximately 30- to-40% of patients suffering from a substance use disorder that have face-to-face visits with one of our certified recovery specialists getting into some kind of treatment."

Warm handoff services are available 24/7 at each campus. The program will continue to grow and progress over time. The ultimate goal is to have a warm handoff with each patient that has a substance use disorder. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from a substance use disorder, call the 24/7 hotline at 570-220-2764.