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Serving the Susquehanna Region

Partnership Supports 24/7 Services for Substance Use Disorders

by UPMC Susquehanna

In April of 2018, UPMC Susquehanna partnered with West Branch Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission, which serves as the Single County Authority, to offer additional support services to patients presenting to the emergency department with a substance use disorder implementing a Warm Handoff program. Designed to provide 24/7 services to patients, during the warm handoff patients receive an assessment, appropriate intervention, and gain quick access to a variety of substance use disorder services in the community. The process has resulted in over 1,200 handoffs since its creation with 545 handoffs being performed in 2018 and 720 performed to date in 2019. Of these 720 interventions, 100 have received referrals and placement to inpatient treatment facilities.

“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,” said Alex Johnson, director, Addiction Medicine, UPMC Susquehanna. “It’s evident just in the numbers how necessary this partnership and program are to our community. Patients are identified for the program when a substance use disorder is believed to be a part of the event that led to the emergency department visit. During this time, the patient is often open to advice, brief intervention, and referral to treatment for the disorder which helps connect the patient to specialized support during these vulnerable moments so appropriate services can be arranged.”

The warm handoff process is performed by certified recovery specialists (CRS) from West Branch Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission who are trained in assisting patients overcoming barriers and helping them bridge gaps between their needs and available treatment resources. These specialists also provide ongoing peer support services in junction with case management to patients enrolled in treatment services.

Katie Hugo, the CRS Supervisor at West Branch Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission says of the program, “We are connecting people to life saving and life changing treatment and recovery support services. The collaboration between us and UPMC has been instrumental in making the warm handoff program a success.” 

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