REGION—Efforts to combat the opioid epidemic were furthered earlier this month with the United States Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarding $1 million to Scranton-based medical education consortium, The Wright Center for Community Health, to establish a Rural Opioid Response Program.

Looking to address the crisis with a network of integrated, comprehensive services, The Wright Center “...will extend naloxone administration training, opioid pregnancy recovery and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs in Wayne and Susquehanna counties,” states a release.

Additionally, the response program will include behavioral health components and assistance through case managers, certified recovery specialists, mental health counselors and psychosocial supports.

These will be implemented through telemedicine networks, Ryan White Infectious Disease/viral hepatitis C (HCV) service lines and the state designated Opioid Use Disorder Center of Excellence (OUD-COE).

“We are pleased to serve as lead partner in this consortium to strengthen and expand substance use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery services in rural areas,” Maria Montoro-Edwards, PhD, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Grants, The Wright Center for Community Health, explained in a press release.

“Activities will focus on Wayne and Susquehanna counties and include medication assisted treatment, case management and social supports. We are grateful for these federal resources that will help us overcome barriers to access in our rural communities.”

To accomplish this, the Wright Center will partner with Maternal and Family Health Services, Inc., the Lackawanna/Susquehanna Office of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the Wayne County Drug and Alcohol Commission (WCDAC).

“This is a great opportunity for drug and alcohol services in Wayne County,” explained WCDAC Executive Director Jeff Zerechak in an interview. “It will expand and sustain the growth we've already experienced.”

Zerechak noted one of the aims in establishing the response program is to increase The Wright Center's presence in Wayne County.

WCDAC already contracts its MAT services through The Wright Center, but, the doctor is only in Honesdale one day each week.

With 36 individuals in the program already, and more requesting assistance all the time, that one day visit is already at maximum capacity.

“MAT is being pushed nationally as the gold standard and best management practice for treatment,” said Zerechak, noting continued support is critical to helping Wayne County residents in need.

Funding from the opioid response program grant is also planned to aid WCDAC in supporting and expanding case management and certified recovery specialist services in Wayne County, said Zerechak.

According to a press release, The Wright Center grant, “...will translate into an additional $100,000 for Wayne County opioid treatment and recovery services,” over its three-year lifespan.

Zerechak explained case management staff are crucial to the recovery process because they help those in the program make it to the myriad appointments necessary to the multi-faceted approach.

In addition to MAT through The Wright Center, those in recovery receive outpatient services through Pennsylvania Treatment and Healing (PATH) and Little Creek Lodge.

Similarly, certified recovery specialists offer critical support and guidance, themselves having gone through similar experiences.

“Medication cannot be used as a standalone treatment,” said Zerechak, noting that lifestyle changes are a necessary component of recovery and therefore incorporated into the treatment process through case management and certified recovery staff.

Given the redoubled efforts both nationally and in the Commonwealth to combat opioid addiction, “We're starting to see a positive impact,” said Zerechak.

According to Pennsylvania's Opioid Data Dashboard, there was a decrease in the number of estimated accidental and undetected drug overdose deaths across the state from 5,377 in 2017 to 4,413 in 2018.

In the hope that such decreases continue to happen, those in need of addiction assistance are encouraged to seek help from WCDAC.

Information about the office and the services offered there is available by visiting or calling the office (318 Tenth Street, Honesdale, PA, 570-253-6022) between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Information is also available online at www.waynecountypa.gov/157/Drug-Alcohol.

In celebration of September as Recovery Month and all those who have found reprieve from their addiction, WCDAC will host a recovery event in Central Park, Honesdale, on Saturday, September 28. More information regarding the event will be available at a later date.

—Information from a press release was used in this story.