Pubdate: Thu, 13 Jul 2017
Source: Morning Call (Allentown, PA)
Copyright: 2017 The Morning Call Inc.


HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Pennsylvania state government is not measuring
the effectiveness of many of its addiction treatment programs that can
be helpful in the fight against the epidemic of heroin and
prescription drug overdoses, auditors said Thursday.

The audit launched last year by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale
recommends that three state agencies -- the departments of Human
Services, Corrections and Drug and Alcohol Programs -- do more to
assess whether their addiction treatment programs are successful in
curing people. It also warns that more money is needed to fund the

The agencies, all under Gov. Tom Wolf, largely agree with the

The audit noted that the agencies have different ways of defining a
program's effectiveness. It also said that the success of addiction
treatment is greatly influenced by someone's desire to be treated and
that tracking the effect of treatment on an addict is very difficult.

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs must develop a method to
monitor the effectiveness of the programs on a regular basis and share
that information in a way that is easily accessible by the public, the
audit says. That method should include periods after a person leaves
drug treatment, it says.

Chronic understaffing and underfunding at the Department of Drug and
Alcohol Programs is hurting the state's ability to fight the opioid
epidemic, the audit says. Imposing a licensing fee on drug treatment
centers would help bring money into the agency, the report says.

The Department of Corrections monitors just one of its seven addiction
treatment program for effectiveness, and that work is limited to
recidivism, auditors said. The department should evaluate all of the
programs for effectiveness, the report says.

Also, the prison agency's medication-assisted treatment program, which
is based on Vivitrol, should target the effectiveness of the drug
beyond recidivism rates, auditors said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health should write regulations to ensure
Pennsylvania physicians are safely prescribing buprenorphine-related
medications. Buprenorphine is designed to block the effects of opioids
and help reduce cravings for opioids.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reported last month that
there were 4,642 drug fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2016, a 37 percent
increase. Prescription or illegal opioids such as heroin were
implicated in 85 percent of the deaths, it said.

Pennsylvania was slightly above the national average in 2015 in opioid
overdose death rates, according information from the Kaiser Family
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