Asking for help is a big step for drug overdose survivors. Soon, survivors who are taken to the emergency room after an opioid overdose can get help 24/7.
Conemaugh Hospital and Alliance Medical Services’ Centers of Excellence in Cambria County are launching a 24/7 warm hand-off program.
“It’s almost like they have to hit total bottom before they say, I have nowhere else to go before I do this,” said Ira Hart, the West End Ambulance Company manager.
Hart wants to point overdose survivors and their families to treatment and counseling options. He’s creating resource packets, including information on the Cambria County Centers of Excellence (COE) 24/7 helpline for overdose survivors.
Hart says issues with the helpline have been fixed. People said the number would ring and no one would pick up.
Helpline workers said there was confusion over Alliance Medical Services automated phone service, which directs callers to the helpline.
The center is now publishing that direct 24/7 helpline: 814-243-9718.
“On our end, we didn’t feel there were any technical issues, we feel it was just clarification of what phone number folks needed to call,” said Pam Gehlmann, the executive director of Alliance Medical Services and Centers of Excellence in Cambria County.
Through the new 24/7 warm hand-off program with Conemaugh Hospital, any patient that comes to the emergency room after an opioid overdose can agree to meet with on-call COE workers to get into treatment. The on-call workers will show up at the hospital within 20 minutes.
“The longer you wait the more time there is for a person to change their mind. for them to leave,” said Centers of Excellence Coordinator Dena Sobecky.
Center workers will train hospital employees how to help overdose survivors and what steps to take to contact the COE.
“With the number of patients that we’re seeing that are coming to the emergency room that could benefit from this, it could make a drastic impact in the community,” said Jeannine McMillan, the manager of strategic planning at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.
Hart said saving an addict will take more than just keeping someone’s heart beating.
“We can save lives every day with Narcan. The problem is, who saves the person? That’s what the warm hand-off does,” Hart said.
You can contact Alliance Medical Services by calling 814-269-4700. You can contact the 24/7 Cambria County Center of Excellence helpline directly by calling 814-243-9718.