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When someone battling an opioid addiction seeks treatment today, it’s a mostly voluntary process: They check in, they check out and then they’re mostly on their own. But Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services is looking to change that by creating a central hub to treat all stages of addiction.

The opioid epidemic led to more than 3,500 deaths in Pennsylvania in 2015, and  at least 10 Pennsylvanians die every day from a drug overdose, according to the state's Department of Health.

“In York, we are just starting to get everything moving,”  said Trish Young, Pennsylvania Counseling Services' vice president of outpatient services. “We already had the treatment piece in place — clinicians that provide mental health, drug and alcohol treatment at outpatient level. What we’re adding in with the Center of Excellence is care navigating and a recovery support specialist.”

Centers of Excellence help ensure that people with opioid-related substance-use disorders stay in treatment to receive follow-up care and are supported within their communities, according to the Department of Human Services. The centers coordinate care for people with Medicaid.

Young is overseeing the program for Pennsylvania Counseling Services, which has 17 mental health and addiction clinics serving seven counties in southcentral Pennsylvania. The center's York County psychiatric clinic was chosen to be one of the first 20 Centers of Excellence earlier this year. Of 116 applications, the state approved just 45 to receive state funds and be in operation by early 2017. 

Care navigators will work with the clients, their loved ones and service providers to connect them to programs and assistance that promotes recovery. A bachelor's degree in the human services field or any degree with experience in human services is required.

Recovery specialists offer outreach prior to treatment, support throughout and follow-up. They will receive assistance in becoming certified recovery specialists. The position requires a high school diploma and working knowledge of 12-step recovery principles.

“I’m really looking for people who are passionate about the work they’re going to be doing and that recognize that addiction is a disease that not only affects the people suffering. … It’s not just as easy as saying just never use drugs again. Change is difficult, and they’re going to need a lot of support and a lot of care.”

Both positions are full time with paid health insurance, paid time off and paid holidays. Applicants are required to have a valid driver’s license and be able to pass criminal history, child abuse and FBI background checks. They will be tested on math, sorting and data entry prior to being scheduled for an interview. The care navigator position pays $15 an hour, and recovery specialists will make between $12 and $13 an hour.

Young said the release of state funding by the county is the only thing standing between filling the first of two positions to get the program started. Both openings are listed on the center’s website.

“Even if we start slow with just one care navigator and one recovery specialist, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to start moving along by the end of the month and bringing people into the program,” Young said.

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