EDITORIAL: Recovery homes certification a good first step

The York Dispatch
  • The proposed certification program is voluntary, but it would be a good start.
  • Addiction is an important issue for York County, which has seen a spike in heroin overdose deaths.
  • Heroin and opioid overdoses took more lives in Pa. than traffic accidents in 2014, Gov. Wolf says.

It’s not easy finding a consensus on an issue, but Pennsylvania’s certification program for recovery homes just might be the one.

In this file photo, Vickie Glatfelter holds her cellphone, which has a picture of her son Bob taken after he took a fatal dose of fentanyl. "When the cops gave me back (his) phone and I flipped it open, that picture was the first thing I saw," she said. She tells her story in a video at yorkdispatch.com. (Randy Flaum - The York Dispatch)

The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs recently released proposed standards for certifying recovery homes, which currently are not subject to any state oversight. In York County, officials don't even know how many homes are operating or where, although York City officials believe there are about 80 homes within the city limits.

The proposed certification program is voluntary, meaning operators of recovery homes would not have to participate.

Nevertheless, the program would be a good start. With the standards — including an ethical code, a standard for policies and procedures and physical standards for the size of rooms, the number of residents allowed in each home as well as the curriculum vitae — the commonwealth can provide health and safety for those in the homes and the surrounding neighborhood.

Additionally, this is an especially important issue for York County, which has seen a significant spike in heroin and opioid-related overdose deaths.

State seeks public input on recovery home certification

According to the Coroner Pam Gay, there were 62 such deaths in 2014, the fourth-highest total in Pennsylvania.

In 2015, there were 65 heroin-related deaths, a total that could have been higher if not for first-responders successfully using Narcan, which is a non-addictive nasal or intravenous treatment that revives those who have overdosed. According to the coroner’s office, Narcan was successfully used by first-responders more than 80 times in 2015, and sometimes on the same person on more than one occasion.

All 23 police departments in the county began carrying Narcan in April 2015, and 99 people were saved with it within the first eight months.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Wolf has held roundtable discussions on the topic across the state and earmarked $20 million for recovery centers in his 2016-17 budget. The administration also announced that the York County-based Pennsylvania Counseling Center was named one of 20 existing care providers statewide that will serve as opioid treatment centers.

York County named location for opioid treatment center

Called Centers of Excellence, the facilities are meant to take a holistic approach to treating people on Medicaid who have an opioid-related addiction. Treatment includes addressing underlying causes of addiction as well as care for an addict's physical symptoms and the centers are slated to open in October.

Heroin and opioid overdoses took more lives in Pennsylvania than traffic accidents did in 2014, Wolf said.

Sen. Casey pushes for more anti-heroin funding

“But it's only a step,” Wolf’s spokesman Jeff Sheridan told the Dispatch last week. “There's more to do.”

Considering that the problems associated addiction are growing not just in York County, but also in Pennsylvania there is more to do and certification of the homes is an important first step.

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs reports that overall drug deaths rose 23 percent in Pennsylvania over the past year, and nearly 80 percent of fatal drug overdoses involved heroin or prescription drugs. By coming up with the certification program, Pennsylvania has determined that recovery is paramount, not only for those in need, but also for the community as well