The Wright for Community Health Awarded More Than $1.5 Million in Federal Funds for Medication-Assisted Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder

The Wright Center for Community Health (TWCCH) has received a federal grant of more than $1.5 million to help Northeastern Pennsylvania residents who are coping with opioid use disorder (OUD), according to an award notification this month from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The grant, totaling $1,561,494, will fund a three-year initiative that is expected to assist more than 1,550 people in Lackawanna County and several nearby counties. In particular, the administration’s grant will allow TWCCH to target its OUD treatment efforts at four particularly vulnerable, hard-to-reach populations: individuals involved with the criminal justice system, veterans, the elderly and pregnant women.

TWCCH’s physicians and other healthcare providers will work collaboratively with local partners such as the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas treatment courts, the Area Agency on Aging, the Veterans Justice Outreach Program, Maternal and Family Health Services, police departments and first responders. Their collective goal: Save lives by increasing the number of individuals who receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and the support of long-term recovery services.

TWCCH, a provider of primary healthcare services, began offering MAT to patients three years ago, responding to the nation’s opioid crisis and its disproportionately lethal toll on communities in Lackawanna, Luzerne and surrounding rural counties. At the time, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services designated TWCCH as a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Opioid Use Disorder Center of Excellence. TWCCH uses a team-based approach to provide MAT, compassionately delivering a whole-person intervention that includes physical and behavioral healthcare, case management, self-help, pain management, and referrals for social supports such as housing, job training and life skills. MAT should be offered to individuals with an OUD or an alcohol use disorder “on a routine basis,” according to advocates at SAMHSA.

“This generous federal grant from SAMHSA gives us the opportunity to launch to the next level of care delivery. It will bring us deep into the criminal justice system, where we will be able to offer more therapeutic alternatives and help people suffering from OUD. Our local criminal justice system is so ready for this type of needs-responsive care, which connects behavioral health with primary care, addiction medicine and oral care in the integrated Patient-Centered Medical Home model that we work within. These SAMHSA funds will enable us to continue finding the sweet spot that affords patients we serve their due privacy and confidentiality, while also letting us explore the new frontier of careful information sharing across cooperative platforms,” said Dr. Linda Thomas-Hemak, CEO of The Wright Center for Community Health and President of The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education.

“The Wright Center for Community Health has moved toward behavioral health and primary care integration, and this has definitely showed a very positive impact on our patient population. Though it is still in its infancy, we are getting better at identifying barriers for treatment in terms of the socioeconomic determinants of health and channeling our energy toward a more whole-person approach for better patient outcomes,” said Dr. Jumee Barooah, Designated Institutional Official for The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education.

“This SAMHSA grant will allow us to optimize services to our clients, and it also supports our efforts to pioneer the training of psychiatry and primary care residents in this integrated-care model,” said Dr. Sanjay Chandragiri, Psychiatry Residency Program Coordinator for The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education.

“The encouragement and support we are receiving through this federal grant is imperative for our organization so that we may continue successfully in our daily commitment to serving our community in the best and most effective ways,” said Dr. Tasneem Khan, Psychiatry Residency Associate Program Director for The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education and Behavioral Health Medical Director for The Wright Center for Community Health.

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