State Audit to Examine Effectiveness in Treating Opioid and Heroin Addicts
Last Friday, Eugene DePasquale, Pennsylvania Auditor General announced an audit of tax dollar expenditures intended to assist and treat opioid and heroin addicts.
He aims to use the results to help Gov. Tom Wolf and legislators work out the best allocation of federal and state money to help addicts, such as which treatment programs are most effective.
Moreover, is money given to drug treatment centers by agencies being spent on programs which actually work?
Three audits running concurrently will focus on the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Corrections.
DePasquale says that his department is going into the audits without preconceived ideas about what treatment approaches will be found most effective:
“We go in and we look at things in an independent way.”
Currently in the state, there is heated conversation about traditional approaches, such as those based on 12-step programs. Critics of these approaches point to low success rates with opioid and heroin addicts, and contend the state should expand access to anti-craving medications and other medication-assisted treatment.
DePasquale says he hopes to finish the audit by next spring.
Pennsylvania’s opioid abuse epidemic is not dissimilar to the one raging across the United States. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, as many as 80% (4 of 5) heroin addicts turned to the drug when they could no longer get the prescription painkillers to which they were addicted.
According to a report from the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association, in 2015, over 3,500 persons in Pennsylvania died of drug overdoses. Roughly, that’s an increase of 30% from 2014. Opioids were found responsible for sixty-percent of those deaths, and most involved multiple drug intoxication.
Fentanyl, an opioid times more powerful than morphine, was found in 3% of overdose victims. Fentanyl is the drug responsible for the untimely death of the artist Prince. Most victims were men (67%) and white (84%).
Common opinion is that overdose victims who survive have little follow-up or support, and often do not get into treatment.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology