Reading, PA (February 14, 2017) – Acting Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs Jennifer Smith and Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine today discussed the Wolf Administration’s efforts to battle the opioid epidemic during a visit to Reading Hospital, where they highlighted the importance of the “warm handoff” protocol in getting overdose survivors directly into treatment for addiction.
“With the number of overdoses increasing in Pennsylvania, we must focus on first reversing the heroin/opioid overdose with naloxone, and then when survivors are revived, getting them into immediate treatment,” said Smith. “A warm handoff is a way to encourage overdose survivors usually transported to emergency rooms for observation to agree to enter treatment.”
It is critical, said Smith, to get those suffering from substance abuse disorder into treatment. She said the number of deaths from heroin/opioid overdoses in the commonwealth was more than 3,500 in 2015 and is expected to be much higher in 2016.
Governor Tom Wolf’s first focus was to get naloxone into the hands of local and state police and other first responders to save lives. As part of those life-saving efforts, Dr. Levine signed a standing order for naloxone that is available at pharmacies or from the Department of Health website. Anyone can use Dr. Levine’s standing order to obtain naloxone.
“We are working now on the second step on the road to recovery from addiction: warm handoff,” said Smith. “Berks County and Reading Hospital have done a great job in getting overdose survivors to enter treatment and Dr. Chuck Barbera can provide a model for the best way to do it.”
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