Drug & Alcohol

2019 marks the official 18th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) — but did you know we can trace its history even further back?

Even before its official declaration, SAAM was about both awareness and prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. Looking at the history of the movement to end sexual violence, it’s clear why: it’s impossible to prevent an issue no one knows about, and it’s difficult to make people aware of a problem without providing a solution. The two work in tandem, and they always have. From the civil rights movement to the founding of the first rape crisis centers to national legislation and beyond, the roots of SAAM run deep.

Roots of the Movement
As long as there have been people who care about making the world a better place, there have been individuals advocating for sexual assault prevention. In the United States, movements for social change and equality began to gain traction in the 1940s and 50s with the civil rights era. Although open discussion of the realities of sexual assault and domestic violence were limited at these times, activists for equal rights began to challenge the status quo.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is about more than awareness — the ultimate goal is prevention. Since consent is a clear, concrete example of what it takes to end sexual harassment, abuse, and assault, this year’s theme centers on empowering all of us to put consent into practice. The campaign theme, I Ask, champions the message that asking for consent is a healthy, normal, and necessary part of everyday interactions.

Sexual assault is a serious and widespread problem. Nearly one in five women in the US have experienced rape or attempted rape at some time in their lives, and one in 67 American men have experienced rape or attempted rape. When we talk about prevention, we mean stopping sexual violence before it even has a chance to happen. This means changing the social norms that allow it to exist in the first place, from individual attitudes, values, and behaviors to laws, institutions, and widespread social norms. Prevention is everyone’s responsibility: All of us can create and promote safe environments. We can intervene to stop concerning behavior, promote and model healthy attitudes and relationships, and believe survivors and assist them in finding resources.

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) is the leading nonprofit in providing information and tools to prevent and respond to sexual violence. NSVRC translates research and trends into best practices that help individuals, communities, and service providers achieve real and lasting change. The center also works with the media to promote informed reporting. Every April, NSVRC leads Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a campaign to educate and engage the public in addressing this widespread issue.

Be sure to share your sexual assault awareness programs and activities on social media, and feel free to share on the RCPA Facebook page and Twitter feed as well.

(From DHS Secretary Miller)

Effective March 25, Valerie Vicari is serving as Acting Deputy Secretary for the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS). I would like to thank Lynn Kovich for her service to OMHSAS and Pennsylvania.

Valerie has been working in the ever-evolving human service field for over 25 years.  Her work has included experience in the children and youth service system and the behavioral health service system, both drug and alcohol services as well as mental health services.  Her various roles have included direct service, case management, county administration, and Commonwealth administration.  Valerie has been a leader within the behavioral health arena since the inception of the Medicaid Behavioral Health HealthChoices program in 2008.  She was part of the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services team that brought innovative behavioral health community programming to Pennsylvania.  Some examples of service development include telepsychiatry, Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) programs, Long Term Structured Rehabilitation programs (LTSR), and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams.  As services evolved, telepsychiatry, CPS and ACT programming expanded to include individuals who have both behavioral health issues as well as forensic involvement.

Valerie’s most recent position has been the Chief Executive Officer at Torrance State Hospital since June 2016.  The oversight responsibilities include but are not limited to the civil psychiatric services, the Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center (RFPC) and the Sexual Responsibility Treatment Program (SRTP).  There are over 300 patients served at Torrance State Hospital on an ongoing basis.  In her leadership role at Torrance the hospital has become tobacco free, telepsychiatry has been developed within the forensic unit and numerous recovery focused initiatives have commenced.

People are complex, and their overall health is shaped by a variety of factors, many of which may not be visible or evident based on a conversation. We must equally focus on behavioral health and physical health and their interconnected nature in order to truly help the people we serve. Our mental and physical health do not exist in isolation, and both are influenced by the external circumstances in a person’s life.

You may know that we are working to improve care for Pennsylvanians by encouraging a whole-person focus that includes social determinants of health as well as physical and behavioral health needs. We want to encourage our physical and behavioral health providers and social service providers to work together to ensure that people do not slip through the cracks so we’re able to make a meaningful difference in their lives. Your work can help us move towards better long-term health outcomes for Pennsylvanians who use our services, and I am excited to partner with each of you to meet this goal.

On behalf of Governor Wolf, we are grateful to your commitment to the commonwealth and people affected by mental health and substance use disorders. Thank you for the work you do to elevate these issues and help people live better lives every day.

Thank you,

Secretary Teresa Miller

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Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs: Wolf administration holds regional summit on warm hand-offs for opioid overdose survivors.

Text of March 20 press release.

Summits bring together stakeholders to strengthen direct pathway to treatment for opioid overdose survivors.

Ivyland, PA – As Governor Tom Wolf today signed the sixth renewal of his opioid disaster declaration, officials from his administration kicked off a series of regional summits to address warm hand-offs for opioid overdose survivors. The event was held at Spring Hill – The Manor in Ivyland, Bucks County.

The summits bring together stakeholders from state and local governments, the drug and alcohol treatment landscape, and health systems to address best practices and implementation roadblocks in providing a warm hand-off to patients treated for an opioid overdose. Eight summits will take place at locations across the state during March and April.

“Over the past year thousands of lives have been saved through warm hand-off programs,” said Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jennifer Smith. “We know this is a key component in strengthening the drug and alcohol landscape throughout Pennsylvania. These summits are designed to fully equip counties who may be struggling to implement their programs with the tools and knowledge to have successful warm hand-off programs. In turn, helping to save our neighbors and loved ones.”

Today, warm hand-off programs at various levels of implementation exist around the commonwealth. Since January 2017, more than 5,000 individuals have been directly referred to treatment as part of the warm hand-off concept. Counties with successful implementations are seeing a success rate of 90 percent of overdose survivors directly admitted into drug and alcohol treatment following an overdose.

“Once we revive someone who has overdosed with naloxone, it is essential that we get those people into treatment,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Warm handoff programs allow our medical providers and our drug treatment providers to ensure that someone with the disease of addiction gets the help they need. Treatment works and recovery is possible for those battling substance use disorder.”

In February 2017, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), Department of Health, and Pennsylvania chapter of the College of Emergency Physicians released a clinical pathway designed to create an easy transition from care for an opioid overdose to treatment for an opioid use disorder. As part of an update in the 2015–2020 grant agreement between DDAP and local Single County Authorities (SCA), SCAs are now required to establish a warm hand-off policy locally.

Representatives from the departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health, Human Services, and Insurance will participate in each of the eight summits:

  • Philadelphia (March 21)
  • Johnstown (March 27)
  • Pittsburgh (March 28)
  • York (April 4)
  • Wilkes-Barre (April 11)
  • Williamsport (April 16)
  • Erie (April 17)

For more information about the warm hand-off summits and the clinical pathway, visit ddap.pa.gov

Media contact: Rachel Kostelac, 717.547.3314

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Further questions may be directed to Jack Phillips

From OMHSAS

Call for Change Project
In 2004, the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ (OMHSAS) Advisory Committee formed a Recovery Work Group, tasked to explore how to transition the adult mental health system in Pennsylvania into a more recovery-oriented approach. The Recovery Work Group was convened, by invitation, to discuss the process of developing a blueprint for building a recovery-oriented service system in Pennsylvania. This collaboration of broad-based stakeholders resulted in A Call for Change, a document that would outline a destination for Systems Transformation and provide guidance on strategies for how to get there.

Because A Call for Change focused on transforming the adult-serving behavioral health system, in 2010, the OMHSAS Children’s Bureau proceeded with developing a document to guide transformation of the child-serving system to one that promotes resiliency for children, youth, and their families.  A Call for Change: Transformation of the Children’s Behavioral Health System in Pennsylvania was drafted as a strategic plan, identifying an ideal array of services, goals, and prioritized action steps to achieve systems change.

Several years have passed since these documents were developed.  In the Fall of 2018, the OMHSAS Mental Health Planning Council challenged OMHSAS to re-visit A Call for Change, to assess how far Pennsylvania’s  behavioral health system that serves children, youth, and their families, as well as adults and older adults, has progressed with transformation, and to identify priorities for future efforts. OMHSAS agreed to support the assessment of progress and the issuance of A Call for Change, 2019. 

The assessment phase will include regional on-site listening sessions, intended to generate broad-based stakeholder input and dialogue.  Information will be provided on the OMHSAS Listserv as soon as details for the in person listening sessions are available. In addition, OMHSAS is posting an online survey to obtain input from stakeholders who are unable to attend a session.

Any questions or comments related to the Call for Change Project can be directed to this email.

New Publication
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in the Criminal Justice System: Brief Guidance to the States

The opioid epidemic has significantly penetrated the criminal justice (CJ) system. This brief provides guidance to state governments on increasing the availability of evidence-based MAT in CJ settings. By including the CJ system as a path to treatment, states may see an increase in access to and retention in treatment, and lower rates of overdoses, re-offending, and re-incarcerations. In this brief, states are provided an overview of the issue, the challenges to incorporating MAT, key considerations for establishing MAT in CJ settings, and existing standards/guidelines.

Inventory#: PEP19-MATBRIEFCJS  |  Download the Brief Guidance

Contact Lynn Cooper, RCPA Drug & Alcohol Division Director, with questions.

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Webinar Wednesdays: Preview Spring Webinars
The Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions (IRETA) spring calendar is filling up quickly. IRETA is bringing three addiction experts to Webinar Wednesday where they will present on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), opioid harm reduction, and more. Find more information and registration links here.

Folders with the label Applications and Grants

Two funding opportunities have been published by the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) for Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant windows. One is for the program as has been operated annually (Traditional DLT) and one is for projects related to prevention, treatment, or recovery for opioid use disorder in rural areas (Opioid DLT). Please note the applications are not the same and the programs have different funding window closings.

Who is eligible?
For both programs, eligible applicants include most entities that provide education or health care through telecommunications, including:

  • Most state and local governmental entities;
  • Federally-recognized Tribes;
  • Non-profits;
  • For-profit businesses; and
  • Consortia of eligible entities.

For more information see the documents below or visit the USDA website.