Allegheny Health Network Hosts Conference on Combating the Opioid Crisis

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National experts and AHN addiction medicine specialists are gathering today at Allegheny General Hospital for a one-day conference, “Drug User Health: Promoting Health and Reducing Harm in Medical Settings”

We are extremely pleased to host this conference which aims to arm the community with a better understanding about substance use disorders...

The current opioid epidemic, and the astounding growth in the numbers of people dying from opiate overdose, is prompting caregivers nationwide to better understand and care for persons who use misuse drugs and/or alcohol. Allegheny Health Network (AHN), a Highmark Health company, is leading the way in western Pennsylvania to identify new ways to engage and retain drug users in care while changing the face of addiction.

On Wednesday, October 18 at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), AHN’s Center for Inclusion Health will present “Drug User Health: Promoting Health and Reducing Harm in Medical Settings.” Intended for both health care providers and community members, this one-day conference will feature a number of local and national thought leaders in addiction treatment; including Maia Szalavitz, author of New York Times Best Seller, “Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction;” Mitch West, DO, Medical Director of Addiction Medicine at AHN; Ryan Brannon, Founder of Pittsburgh-based addiction recovery app “My New Leaf;” and many more.

“Persons with substance use disorders often face profound stigma and misunderstanding throughout their recovery journey,” said Stuart Fisk, CRNP MSN, Director of AHN’s Center for Inclusion Health. “We are extremely pleased to host this conference which aims to arm the community with a better understanding about substance use disorders, as well as share innovative, evidence-based approaches to treatment for these and other health conditions that can be applied across the health care spectrum.”

In August, AHN announced its Center of Excellence for Opioid Use Disorder. This comprehensive program helps patients with opioid-related substance use disorders receive the health and community-based care and support they need to overcome addiction and maintain long-term wellness.

Rather than treating the addiction alone, a principal goal of the AHN Center of Excellence is to treat the whole person by integrating behavioral health and primary care. Patients identified as having an opioid use disorder and requesting treatment are referred to Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) or outpatient therapy. For patients who are in need of higher levels of treatment, referrals are made to inpatient, residential or intensive outpatient programs. To date, the Center of Excellence has engaged nearly 250 patients.

AHN also launched this year the first and only medical respite program i n the tristate region. To better meet the healthcare needs of the homeless and unstably-housed population, the respite program provides patients recovering from illnesses with a safe place to recuperate and receive ongoing non-acute care and support following a hospital stay. More than half of the respite program’s patients have health issues relating to opioid use.

The respite program was recognized with a 2017 Fine Award by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation and The Fine Foundation for providing innovative, quality improvement-centered treatment for mental health and substance use problems.

More than 4,600 Pennsylvanians died as a result of a drug-related overdose in 2016. The presence of an opioid, either illicit or prescribed by a doctor, was identified in 85 percent of drug-related overdose deaths.


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Candace Herrington
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