Berks County Warm Handoff Program

The Warm Handoff Program works to provide treatment intervention to individuals who enter hospitals with substance use disorders. The program was created in 2015 by the PA Dept. of Drug & Alcohol Programs (DDAP) to address the opioid epidemic. In Berks County, the Warm Handoff initiative was developed in the fall of 2015 as a collaborative effort between COCA, Treatment Access and Service Center (TASC) and local hospitals.

It was originally designed to provide intervention for opioid overdose survivors or individuals showing signs of an opioid withdrawal. In 2017, the program was expanded to include any individual showing signs of a substance use disorder who presents at a local hospital. That same year, Reading Hospital Emergency Room began providing a 24/7 Warm Handoff program, with Recovery Support Specialists available around-the-clock.

Once a patient is medically stable, he or she is met by a Certified Recovery Specialist (CRS) who provides support and guidance for accessing treatment. Certified Recovery Specialists are employees of TASC and credentialed by the Pennsylvania Certification Board. When possible, the CRS personally escorts the patient to a treatment facility’s transportation vehicle.

At Reading Hospital nearly 5,000 Warm Handoff patients have been seen since 2017, with more than 60 percent accepting and entering treatment immediately. according to information provided by DDAP.

This initiative has been made possible through funding from the Council on Chemical Abuse, Community Care Behavioral Health Organization (CCBH) and Reading Hospital’s Centers of Excellence.