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Shapiro Administration Releases ‘Phase 1’ Findings of DDAP’s Statewide Stakeholder Engagement Tour, Addresses Workforce Concerns and Treatment, Health Equity

03/01/2024

Harrisburg , PA - Today, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) announced the findings of the first phase of the agency’s statewide stakeholder engagement tour, including what actions will be taken to improve community and treatment provider engagement and access to and delivery of substance use disorder (SUD) services based on feedback received during the tour.

During the first phase, DDAP Secretary Dr. Latika Davis-Jones met with local leaders, treatment and service providers, active service recipients, members of the recovery community, and other stakeholders representing 13 counties to discuss top issues and concerns surrounding the opioid and overdose crises. The topics of the roundtable discussions included regulations and reform efforts​, data requirements and modernization needs​, health equity work and advancement​, treatment slot management, and improving departmental communications.

“From Erie to Pottstown, State College to Pittsburgh and stops in between, we sat down with hundreds of stakeholders to listen, learn and have face-to-face conversations with those who are the true boots-on-the ground,” said Secretary Davis-Jones. “The feedback we received is not only valuable to our ongoing regulatory reform efforts, but also helped to inform changes we can implement now outside of our regulations.”

The roundtables were held in conjunction with the:

· Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Behavioral Health’s Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services

· City of Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services

· Centre County Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention and Drug and Alcohol Office

· Columbia, Montour, Snyder, Union Drug and Alcohol Program

· Dauphin County Department of Drug and Alcohol Services

· Erie County Office of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

· Luzerne/Wyoming Counties Drug and Alcohol Program

· Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission

· Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Drug and Alcohol.

“Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was delighted to engage with DDAP Secretary Davis-Jones and her team. Montgomery County prides itself on putting people first to ensure our youth, adults, and senior residents are given top-tier services by promoting no-wrong-door service delivery and braiding funds with other HHS offices to allow more opportunities for an unmatched behavioral health system,” said HHS Office of Drug and Alcohol Administrator Linda Moore-Singleton. “Montgomery County HHS looks forward to a positive and collaborative working relationship with DDAP.”

Initial findings show various pain points exist within the behavioral health workforce, regulatory and data aspects of service delivery, and unaddressed needs within priority populations. The findings were derived as a direct result of the feedback received during Phase 1 tour stops and are listed in the topic areas highlighted below followed by actions DDAP will take within the first quarter of 2024 that do not require going through the regulatory reform process. The actions will align with the agency’s RISE goals of Reducing stigma, Intensifying primary prevention services, Strengthening treatment systems, and Empowering sustained recovery.

Workforce Concerns

Concerns about compassion fatigue and increased burnout rates were consistently voiced by stakeholders, particularly impacting certified recovery specialists due to their lived experience and balancing their own health and well-being.

DDAP is offering an $18 million SUD student loan repayment program to assist practitioners within the SUD treatment, prevention, case management and recovery support services workforce.

Administrative Burdens

Stakeholders vocalized that burdensome paperwork and reporting requirements in the field exacerbate the challenges of workload management and contribute to workforce and staffing issues, which can impact access to services.

DDAP will be surveying the SUD workforce to gather additional knowledge of pain points related to DDAP’s regulations. DDAP will then be using that information, coupled with data gathered during Phase 1, to conduct time-limited and topic-specific work groups to help inform the agency’s future regulatory reform decisions and ensure stakeholder input throughout the process.

Treatment Assessment

Stakeholders voiced concerns regarding DDAP’s regulations and the American Society for Addiction Medicine (ASAM) Criteria, which treatment providers use in the assessment of a person to help determine the most appropriate level of care, and how having both creates difficulties for maintaining compliance.

DDAP will be providing clarification to the SUD workforce regarding ASAM alignment through technical assistance webinars and additional educational opportunities.

Health Equity

With continually growing diverse populations across the state, and with increasing overdose death rates in Black and brown populations, language translation services are a growing need. In addition, stakeholders vocalized a need for staff trainings on cultural norms.

DDAP-established regional recovery hubs will work closely with equity coalitions regarding the lack of recovery resources in communities of color, namely by providing diversity, equity and inclusion training to equity coalition members.

"The findings unveiled by DDAP underscore the critical importance of collaborative efforts to enhance access to SUD services and improve outcomes for individuals and families affected by the illness of addiction,” said Scott Coughenour, Erie County Office of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Administrator. “Secretary Davis-Jones is demonstrating proactive leadership in addressing the complex challenges of the opioid and overdose crises.”

Additional actions include:

· Working to expand DDAP’s Life Unites Us anti-stigma campaign to address all stigma issues identified during Phase 1;

· Providing guidance to all 47 county drug and alcohol offices, known as Single County Authorities, on the process to requesting additional funds for SUD services;

· Promoting and updating existing trainings or developing new trainings requested by stakeholders on co-occurring disorders, case management, confidentiality, and motivational interviewing; and

· Planning to institute monthly updates of licensed providers that are included in Treatment Atlas,the online tool to learn about providers in people’s area, with the goal of providing updated information in as real time as possible.

“I strongly believe that in order for us to do better in combatting the ongoing opioid crisis, it’s important to involve those who are in the trenches of the fight. Removal of barriers to treatment will only increase the opportunities for recovery for those locked into battle with addiction. I look forward to continuing this critical work with the Department to bring new ideas and new solutions from regional stakeholders and treatment providers to reduce red tape and increase access to care,” Senator Michele Brooks said. “I would like to commend Secretary Davis-Jones for her commitment to receiving input from all corners of the state, including legislative districts like my own, which all have unique challenges.”

The goals of DDAP’s engagement tour align with Governor Josh Shapiro’s Executive Order to establish the Pennsylvania Behavioral Health Council, which brings together state leaders, local governments, and community providers to develop and recommend to the Governor the implementation of a statewide action plan that addresses how to deliver timely and quality mental health and SUD services, in a culturally relevant, trauma-informed, and recovery-oriented manner, through an evidence-based behavioral delivery system.

DDAP will kick off Phase 2 of the agency’s statewide stakeholder engagement tour this spring and will be making stops in several more counties, including Berks, Carbon, Crawford, Lawrence, and Westmoreland counties.

Learn more about the Shapiro Administration’s efforts in combating the overdose crisis at pa.gov/opioids.


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