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Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Use Disorder: Lunch & Learn

Kyle Kampman, MD, from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, will present on “Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for Opioid Use Disorder.” Kampman,a professor of psychiatry at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Presbyterian Medical Center of Philadelphia, will discuss opioid addiction as a brain disease and answer questions about the growth of the opioid epidemic and best treatments for opioid use disorder.

Bring your lunch – and learn.

Click to register.

The Evidence-based Practice and Innovation Center (EPIC) at DBHIDS is the organizer of “Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder.”

EPIC works to ensure that state-of-the-art treatments are available within our network. Activities of EPIC include: providing education and resources, supporting DBHIDS evidence-based practice (EBP) Initiatives, identifying strategies for implementation, and aligning policies to optimize the impact of EBPs throughout our behavioral health system.

For more information please visit or email

Four Ways Philly Is Fighting the Opioid Epidemic in Fairhill and Kensington

By Michaela Winberg

Michael DiBerardinis tried to hold back tears at a community meeting on Saturday morning.

DiBerardinis, the managing director of the City of Philadelphia, was one of the first panelists to speak at El Barrio Es Nuestro, a community meeting geared toward combating the opioid epidemic in Fairhill and Kensington. The meeting — held at the Salvation Army on Mascher Street near Allegheny Avenue — was intended to inform and educate attendees about the city’s existing efforts against substance use in the neighborhood.

The gathering came on the heels of the city’s Wednesday announcement that it would sue national pharmaceutical companies for “deceptive marketing” practices, which they argue worsened the opioid crisis in Philadelphia.

As DiBerardinis spoke in front of city officials, nonprofit workers and community residents, a few tears did fall from his eyes.

“I have never been so frustrated, depressed at times, mad at myself,” he said, “for not being able to do what we need to do to keep this neighborhood safe.” He assured the audience, “We’re trying, and we’ll continue to do that with you.”

He also admitted that the city’s outreach hasn’t always been enough.

“We’re going to make mistakes,” DiBerardinis said. “But never, ever think that we’re not going to stay here with you and fight this thing out.”

The remaining panelists, all committed to solving Philadelphia’s worsening opioid crisis, included 7th District Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez, DBHIDS Deputy Commissioner Roland Lamb and Mural Arts Executive Director Jane Golden. Here are a few potential solutions they presented:

Warming centers

When the bomb cyclone storm hit earlier this month — bringing snow, ice, single-digit temps and subzero windchills — the city instituted a new type of homeless shelter. The first “warming center” opened at Cione Recreation Center in Kensington on Dec. 30, 2017. People didn’t need to show any form of identification to enter, and they weren’t required to commit to spending the whole night there.

That last detail is key. When shelters force people to stay the whole night, officials explained, it can deter those with substance use disorder from entering. They often opt to stay in the cold so they can use drugs and avoid going through withdrawal.

“Because of the uniqueness of their affliction, they were not coming into our homeless shelters,” Alicia Taylor, a city communications specialist, told Billy Penn. “They were going to die if we didn’t do something.”

The city partnered with recovery group Angels in Motion to staff the Cione Rec warming center, which has been open on and off over the past three weeks as dictated by the weather. The city also collaborated with Mural Arts to open a second warming center at Porch Light, a community arts space in Kensington.

“We wanted to save lives,” said Joanna Otero-Cruz, the city’s deputy managing director for community services. “We wanted to make sure people had a place to go, could have something warm to drink and could escape the cold, even if it was just for a couple hours.”

Allowed encampments, with trash bags

Inspector Ray Convery, who leads the East Division for Philadelphia Police, is working on a new program to make the bridges in Kensington and Fairhill more safe — both for neighborhood residents and those staying there in encampments.

Convery said he hopes to institute a “safe corridor” on one side of the bridge for residents to walk across without obstruction. Along the other side — for the time being — the people experiencing homelessness will be allowed to stay. Until the city can provide these people with permanent housing, Convery said, he’ll work to provide bridge residents with trash bags to help clean up the area.

Once he cleans up the bridges, he hopes to slowly expand to the entire neighborhood.

“That’s going to make a huge difference for us,” Convery said. “And then we can start working on some of the scattered camps that you see elsewhere. We want to be able to start…a block-by-block program down there.”

“I can’t take the whole neighborhood and fix it at once,” Convery said. “But we can do pieces at a time.”

Recovery housing

Pennsylvania Senate Bill 446, recently signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf, will give the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs the authority to certify recovery houses that receive public funds.

In advance of the official process being implemented, DBHIDS Deputy Commissioner Lamb said, the city will host a Pennsylvania Alliance of Recovery Residences information session. On Jan. 24 at 1 p.m., PARR Executive Director Fred Way will teach the basics of certified recovery housing.

“Based upon the new standards,” Lamb explained, “in order to call yourself a recovery house, you’re going to have to meet certain qualifications.”

The mission of this effort is two-fold. It’s meant to help people with addiction find sober housing, and also to communicate the idea that recovery houses don’t always bring horror stories — they can be good for their neighborhoods and are often effective at helping people recover.

Safe-injection site?

This one is still up in the air.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Philly is “exploring the possibility” of a supervised safe-injection site, which would allow people to use drugs in the building and provide medical care and treatment options. Locales like these have proven effective in limiting overdose deaths in cities like Vancouver.

“The city is very much in the process of exploring whether such a facility is appropriate for Philadelphia,” Farley said. “We hope to have an answer soon.”

Community response

What did residents think of all this? In short: It’s a good start.

Beatrize Thomas, who lives on A Street near Somerset Avenue, said the presentation left her feeling optimistic about the future of her neighborhood. But she knows these problems can’t be solved overnight.

“It’s going to take time,” said Thomas, 67. “This is a crisis, so it’s going to take a little time to clean it up.”

Diana Rodriguez, 42, found out about the meeting from her son, who attends Fairhill PAL in the same Salvation Army location. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have known about the meeting at all — which she called out as a major problem.

“Half of my neighborhood didn’t know about it,” Rodriguez said. “There was a lack of communication there with the neighborhood. I think they should’ve informed all of the neighborhood to try to get them in here.”

Still, Rodriguez was glad she’d attended.

“It was good to have information, because you don’t always know what’s going on and the way things are around here,” she said. “It gave us some hope, but there’s still more work to be done, one step at a time.”

Philly Offers Free Training on Use of Narcan

By Alicia Vitarelli

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Officials call it nothing short of a lifesaver, and Wednesday city officials offered anyone who lives in Philadelphia free training on how to use Narcan.

Narcan is the brand name of the drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Overdoses are skyrocketing and officials want everyone to have the tools and skills to save a life.

The city’s behavioral health department offered education about the epidemic, the drug and access to Narcan. They also gave a hands on demonstration on how to administer Narcan. The goal was simple: combating the crisis one person at a time.

“A lot of people are faced with this crisis in their own households,” said Pamela McClenton of the Department of Behavioral Health. “This is a way for us to destigmatize the opioid substance use disorder and treatment.”

Narcan can be purchased over-the-counter at drug stores in Philadelphia, you do not need a prescription.

Officials said it can reverse a fatal overdose almost immediately, and restore breathing within two to eight minutes.

Kennedy Health in Berlin, Camden County is tackling the opioid epidemic in New Jersey.

Medical experts spent the day discussing the crisis and the efforts to fight it.

U-S Congressman Donald Norcross was the opening speaker and Tony Luke, the cheesesteak franchise founder, shared his emotional story after his son recently died from a heroin overdose.

Collaboration Can Lead to Change

By David T. Jones

What’s happening along Gurney Street is something to be celebrated.

In just over two weeks since the clean-up project began along a stretch of land owned by Conrail in the Kensington-Fairhill community, more than 250 tons of waste and debris have been removed and fencing is going up to prevent people from becoming injured on or near the railroad tracks.  In addition, the fencing serves as a barrier to prevent gathering in the area where folks had engaged in dangerous and unhealthy behavior.  In this instance the “C “word, collaboration between City agencies and private partners, has made the difference — the once blighted landscape is no more.

Read more

Fixing Philly – Caring for Those Leaving ‘El Campamento’

Today, Monday, July 31, the city and Conrail, will begin clearing out a Kensington site known as “El Campamento,” a camp that leads to a half-mile area along the railroad tracks that have long been a haven for heroin users looking to shoot up and hide from police.

As detailed recently in Time magazine, the area has been a problem for city officials and local residents for years until the city recently formed an agreement with Conrail that would see the area cleared by the end of this month. On Friday, city officials said that as this week’s clean-up gets underway, the city will also provide a temporary social services hub to help those struggling with addiction at the site at least until Wednesday, July 2.

But, what happens after that?

According to David T. Jones, the newly appointed head of the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, Philadelphia has capacity at its shelters for any heroin user who sees the end of El Campamento as the first step towards rehabilitation.

“We have capacity in our system to meet that need. Right now, we have capacity across the board,” he said, saying his office has been working with Conrail to anticipate the needs of those that will be pushed out of that area.

Jones’ department is funded to the tune of about $1 billion a year and, along with addiction services, the department manages the city’s mental health services and disability services, as well. And, that’s important, because, Jones said, it takes a rounded approach to be able to address issues of opioid addiction.

Along with needing to kick a drug addiction, Jones said, those who might have regularly visited El Campamento will likely need, what he called “social determinants,” which would include shelter, nutritional needs and food security and help building healthy relationships. To do this, he said, his department is set to help connect those who come to them for help breaking the cycle of opioid addiction with the many different organizations that work with the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual DisAbility Services.

“We have been really thoughtful and we are really going to try and make all of those connections across life’s domain,” Jones said, for those leaving El Campamento.

Also, he said, a big part of helping rehabilitate someone who is coming out of an addiction to an opioid like heroin is helping them find a support system – something he called ‘families.” And, he noted, that sometimes, “families” don’t mean just a person’s blood-related kin.

“We are trying to connect them to some type of family unit,” said Jones. “We have families that we are born into and we have families that we create. We are talking about families in the broadest sense.”

Finally, when asked if the controversial topic of safe injection sites were an idea that might help Philadelphia combat its opioid crisis, Jones said that his office is now looking at new strategies to make a dent in the problem, and safe injections sites are an idea that they are considering.

“We are looking at all strategies that will help people in their recovery and safe injections sites are one of those strategies that we are looking at,” he said. “We are exploring that as a strategy.”

Mayor Addresses Opioid Crisis in Philadelphia

On Nov. 22, Mayor Jim Kenney announced the formation of a Task Force to combat the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia. The epidemic of abuse, addiction and overdose from opioids is a national crisis that now claims the lives of more than 28,000 Americans each year. Philadelphia is projected to have 840 drug overdose deaths in 2016, an increase from 2013 and nearly three times the number of homicides in the city. Eighty percent of those overdose deaths will involve opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl.

“The opioid epidemic has been taking lives, destroying families and undermining the quality of life of Philadelphians across the city,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “This is a significant social and public health challenge requiring a comprehensive, citywide approach.”

The task force will be co-chaired by two City Commissioners, Arthur C. Evans, Jr., Ph.D., Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services and Dr. Thomas Farley, Department of Public Health. It will be comprised of 16 members with representatives from a broad section of stakeholders who are affected by the epidemic including representatives from all relevant city departments and city council, addiction experts, researchers, physicians, business and community groups, persons with lived experience, state and federal government, and law enforcement.

“Virtually everyone selected to serve on this task force has been immersed in this issue for a long time taking aggressive and strategic action to combat it but our efforts have been too fragmented,” said Arthur C. Evans, Jr., Ph.D., Commissioner of DBHIDS. “Coming together as a single unit will allow us to harness our collective expertise and put us in a stronger position to make an impact in response to an unprecedented epidemic that for multiple years has claimed more lives in Philadelphia than gun violence.”

This summer, commissioners Evans and Farley issued a city wide warning that a dangerous heroin laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl was circulating in Philadelphia. The drug combo killed at least 28 people between March 3 and April 20. Fentanyl, an extremely potent opioid is 100 times stronger than morphine. “We need everyone to help us solve this problem by reducing the number of people who become addicted, getting people who are addicted into treatment, and preventing fatal overdose in users who are not yet in treatment” said Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley.

The Task force will work through five sub-committees that will include additional members:

  1. Comprehensive data collection and sharing
  2. Public education and prevention strategies
  3. Justice system, law enforcement, and first responders
  4. Service access, best practices, and treatment providers
  5. Overdose prevention and harm reduction

The task force will meet semimonthly for three months starting Jan. 11. They are charged with developing a comprehensive and coordinated plan to reduce opioid abuse, dependence and overdose in Philadelphia and draft a report of findings and recommendations for action to the Mayor within 90 days of their first meeting.

Philadelphia Enlists Doctors to Expand Opioid addiction treatment

At Philly Summit, Medical Professionals Discuss New Approach to Addiction

In 2015, more people died of opioid-related causes than by homicide in Philadelphia.On Tuesday, more than 100 doctors and medical professionals made their way out to a summit to find out more about treating addiction with the drug buprenorphine.

Buprenorphine is an opioid itself — but it helps opioid users recover from their addiction. Originally intended to be used as a pain medication, it’s been available to treat opiate dependence for more than a decade.

“When you have buprenorphine on your opiate receptors on your brain, other opioids are unable to occupy those receptors. So it’s both a treatment, it’s also protective,” said Dr. Rose Julius, the deputy chief medical officer for Community Behavioral Health in Philadelphia.

She’d like to see more providers in the city offer the drug.

But some in the medical field have been resistant to using the drug because of stigma and a lack of awareness, she said.

“There’s a commonly held perception by many lay people and people outside of the addiction treatment world that addiction treatment does not work,” Julius said. “In fact, when you apply evidence-based treatment, people can and do recover.”

Traditional recovery methods, such as outpatient detox programs followed by drug-free treatment, can be dangerous, experts say. Buprenorphine can help people during a critical time because it curbs cravings, diminishes withdrawal symptoms and decreases the odds of an overdose. But experts caution it shouldn’t be used without accompanying treatment.

Dr. Brendan Youngman is the associate medical director at COMHAR Inc.,  a mental health facility in Kensington.

He came to the summit because he thinks a program with buprenorphine, also known by the trade name Suboxone, could be a better fit for some patients than methadone treatment.

“A lot of them want to take on jobs, or do other activities, and it kind of creates a barrier to that. Suboxone allows them to take the medication home, take it on a weekly basis,” he explained. At a time when opioid overdose deaths are climbing, Philadelphia officials are hoping to expand buprenorphine’s availability.

This year, officials predict there will be almost 850 overdose deaths in Philadelphia, up from 700 in 2015.