According to the National Center for Health Statistics, over 72,000 individuals died from a drug overdose in the United States in 2017. Of these 72,000, over 49,000 were due to opioids, representing a 4.1 fold increase in opioid overdose deaths since 2002. Lackawanna County in particular has seen a spike in fatal overdoses over the last few years. According to data from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and from updated data from the Lackawanna County Coroner’s office, approximately 231 individuals have died from fatal overdoses since 2014. In addition, local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and hospital emergency departments are seeing an increase in suspected overdoses.
In response to this ever-growing epidemic, the Lackawanna County Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs has collaborated with partners to establish the Warm Handoff Program. Warm Handoff is the process of communication and referral of a patient from a primary care setting such as a hospital emergency room to a behavioral health setting. Any individual admitted to the emergency room for substance use reasons will be met by a Certified Recovery Specialist (CRS) who will provide support as well as collaborate with medical professionals and case managers to meet the individual where they’re at and facilitate treatment. Warm Handoff is currently operating out of Geisinger CMC Hospital in Scranton, with hopes to expand the program to other emergency departments.
The Purpose of Warm Handoff is to:
- Ensure that individuals who arrive to the emergency room for substance abuse related issues are screened and assessed upon admission.
- Educate the individual on substance abuse and treatment options.
- Refer to the appropriate level of care.
- Facilitate admission and/or transportation to treatment.
- Continue to track any individual referred to treatment through the Warm Handoff program, by communicating with both the individual and the treatment provider.