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Shapiro Administration Kicks off ‘Phase 2’ of Statewide Stakeholder Engagement Tour in Berks County to Discuss Local Needs, Efforts to Combat the Opioid and Overdose Crises

03/27/2024

Harrisburg , PA - Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Secretary Dr. Latika Davis-Jones kicked off Phase 2 of the agency’s statewide stakeholder engagement tour today in Berks County to hear top issues and concerns surrounding the opioid and overdose crises. DDAP’s goal is to gather feedback that will help craft the agency’s plan for increased community and treatment provider engagement.

“The Shapiro Administration knows it’s going to take all of us at every level of government to address the overdose and opioid public health crises,” said Secretary Davis-Jones. “Today’s stops are a look into how our county partners within Berks County are addressing the needs of residents and priority populations at the local level. Hearing from direct service providers is integral to how we ensure ways the state can complement their efforts moving forward.”

As part of this stop, Secretary Davis-Jones visited Berks Counseling Center, a substance use disorder (SUD) treatment provider that also offers mental health, physical health, and co-occurring disorders treatment, housing, case management, community based programming, peer support, and wellness services. Secretary Davis-Jones also visited DDAP-licensed recovery house Easy Does It, Inc., where she joined residents and staff to take part in an interactive music therapy session.

Secretary Davis-Jones was joined by the Berks County Council on Chemical Abuse, SUD treatment providers, recovery organizations, and other stakeholders for a roundtable discussion on efforts to manage the overdose crisis in Berks County.

The county’s drug and alcohol office is the Single County Authority (SCA) for drug and alcohol services in Berks County, serving as the coordinating agency for publicly supported drug and alcohol programming countywide.

“We were honored to welcome Secretary Davis-Jones to Berks County,” said SCA Administrator Kathleen Noll. “The discussion today will help the SCA and provider agencies to offer high quality prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery services to the residents of Berks County as our community continues to battle the overdose crisis.”

DDAP recently awarded nearly $2 million to organizations serving Berks County that will help to:

· establish or expand SUD services, community outreach and education to underrepresented communities struggling with the opioid overdose crisis.

· establish a regional recovery hub to enhance resources for individuals in recovery and promote recovery within Berks County and the surrounding region.

Building on ‘Phase 1’

Phase 2 of DDAP’s engagement tour will center on gaining stakeholder insight to assist the agency’s work on regulatory reform and build on the feedback received and solutions instituted as a result of Phase 1.

The Phase 1 findings were derived as a direct result of the feedback received during roundtable discussions held in 2023. Throughout Phase 1, DDAP visited 10 Pennsylvania counties including Allegheny, Erie, Centre and Philadelphia, met with more than 220 stakeholders during the roundtables, and visited nearly 20 different service providers including inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities, DDAP-licensed recovery houses, and wellness centers.

Below are DDAP’s action items that don’t require regulatory action and further align with the agency’s RISE goals of Reducing stigma, Intensifying primary prevention services, Strengthening treatment systems, and Empowering sustained recovery:

· 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.

· DDAP is 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.

· DDAP is providing clarification to the SUD workforce regarding alignment with American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) criteria, which is a comprehensive set of standards and decision rules determining the appropriate level of care and developing treatment plans, through technical assistance webinars and additional educational opportunities.

· DDAP-established regional recovery hubs will provide additional trainings to equity coalitions, including diversity, equity and inclusion training.

‘Boots-on-the-Ground’ Input

Stakeholders include individuals in recovery and those with lived experience, service providers, active service recipients, community leaders, schools, corrections units, and more. The tour will seek to reach communities and voices less frequently heard.

DDAP is prioritizing gaining stakeholder insight to assist the agency with its regulatory reform initiative. Specifically, the agency’s objectives for the regulatory reform initiative include:

· organizing regulations in a way that makes sense for both providers and patients reading them;

· updating terminology to use current and consistent terms using plain language while avoiding stigmatizing language; and

· ensuring regulations are specifically focused and designed to promote client safety, quality care, and positive outcomes and elevate the patient experience.

Throughout the remainder of the tour, DDAP will also be seeking input on SUD issues related to: ​

· data requirements and modernization needs​

· health equity work and advancement​

· treatment slot management ​

· improving departmental communications.

Future tour stops will include Lehigh County, Blair County, Westmoreland County, and several others.

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

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephany Dugan - ra-dapressoffice@pa.gov

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