Center of Excellence (COE)

The Opioid Epidemic

Pennsylvania is currently experiencing an unprecedented number of heroin, opioid, and substance use deaths. The Pennsylvania State Coroners Association has reported that the number of drug-related overdose deaths doubled in Lackawanna County from 2014 to 2015. In 2016, the Lackawanna County Coroner reported that, on average, someone dies from an overdose in the county every three days. And in its most recent Analysis of Drug-Related Overdose Deaths in Pennsylvania (2015), the DEA reported that over half (53%) of the state’s 3,383 overdose deaths that year were opioid-related.

The Wright Center was recently named a Center of Excellence (COE) by the PA Department of Human Services. In this capacity, The Wright Center is positioned to address the opioid epidemic and to serve over 300 patients through the integration of behavioral and mental health care, recovery-oriented service planning and treatment, attention to socioeconomic determinants of health, patient engagement and self-management, and social supports.

What is a Center of Excellence?

Centers of Excellence integrate behavioral health with primary care for people with Medicaid and commercial insurances to coordinate care using a team-based approach to treatment that is focused on the “whole person”. Also referred to as “health homes”, Centers of Excellence serve patients who:

  • have an opioid use disorder (OUD);
  • may have co-occurring behavioral/substance abuse and physical health conditions;
  • need help navigating the healthcare system; and
  • need guidance to stay engaged in treatment in order to avoid relapse.

While help exists for people who have opioid-related substance use disorder, the treatment path can be difficult for patients to navigate. Without professional coordination of care, many individuals who are referred for evaluation are not evaluated, and of those who are evaluated, most who are referred for treatment never receive treatment. The Wright Center employs case managers, licensed social workers and certified recovery specialists to link patients to services and remove barriers to care.

How It Works

A community-based care management (CBCM) team works with emergency departments, correctional facilities, primary care providers, mental health agencies and families to engage individuals with opioid use disorders. Center of Excellence team members complete a level of care assessment and educate these individuals about the disease of addiction.   They will also assist them in initiating appropriate treatment(s), including substance/mental and physical health services, facilitate ongoing treatment and the provision of other needed services, and motivate them to stay engaged in their treatment. The CBCM team will actively work with other community agencies to ensure patients’ needs are being met. The CBCM team also works with inpatient drug and alcohol facilities to assure individuals living with OUD will transition from that level of care to the COE for ongoing engagement in treatment when they return to the community. The team motivates and encourages individuals with OUD to stay engaged in both physical health and behavioral health treatments. Team members will facilitate recovery by helping individuals find stable housing and employment and by helping them to reestablish family/community relationships.

As a Center of Excellence, The Wright Center has medical doctors who have become certified and approved by the DEA to provide FDA-approved medication for delivery of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to treat opioid addiction.

Additional Links and Resources:

Centers of Excellence
The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Centers of Excellence webpage includes a current list of all OUD Centers of Excellence in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Heroin Hits Home – Combatting the horror of heroin in Lackawanna County.
Heroin Hits Home is a data and resource clearinghouse maintained by the Lackawanna County District Attorney’s Office.

OverdoseFreePA – Pennsylvania’s town square for overdose prevention information.
Through OverdoseFreePA, Pennsylvania communities and organizations collaborate to increase community awareness and knowledge of overdose and overdose prevention strategies, as well as to support practices and initiatives that will decrease drug overdoses and deaths.

PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP)
The DDAP’s mission is to engage, coordinate and lead state efforts to prevent and reduce drug, alcohol and gambling addiction and abuse and to promote recovery.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is charged with improving the quality and availability of treatment and rehabilitative services in order to reduce illness, death, disability, and the cost to society resulting from substance abuse and mental illnesses.