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What Works: Centers of excellence

November 28, 2016
by Donna Marbury
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Combining community outreach and a substance abuse program, the not-for-profit Clinical Outcomes Group, Inc. (COGI) has earned a top distinction in the state of Pennsylvania as a center of excellence (COE). The distinction included a $500,000 award, which COGI leaders say will be used to expand opioid treatment programs and to create state and regional collaborations.

“The great thing about the centers of excellence is that each can look different from one another,” says Jennifer Ryan Melochick, director of programs at COGI. “Each COE is tasked with filling the gaps in the current system of opioid treatment in our communities, so that each will be as effective in improving access to treatment and treatment outcomes as possible.”

COGI is one of 50 COEs funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to increase integrated behavioral health and primary care treatment for opioid patients.

To qualify for the award, treatment centers have to offer addiction programs that include medication-assisted treatment and have the capacity to serve an additional 300 patients in the next year. Currently, COGI’s staff of 25 treats 330 substance use disorder patients a year, with 200 of those patients enrolled in medical-assisted treatment.

“When an individual has [an opioid-related] crisis or overdose, very often that person either refuses further medical treatment or loses his or her connection to treatment after the crisis,” Melochick says.

COGI’s program includes mobile community-based care managers, an EMS care manager and a nurse.  The care management team also works with community stakeholders to create local referrals.

Along with increasing its SUD program offerings, COGI will be expanding to a new site to accommodate additional patients. The new office is slated to open by early 2018, according to Melochick.

For fellow treatment centers considering new collaborations, she offers the following advice:

1. Understand the effectiveness of existing programming

“Services are evaluated both internally and externally to assess effectiveness,” Melochick says. “We believe in investing in strong data collection and an infrastructure aimed at improving service quality.”

2. Get creative with patient outreach

Aside from referrals from county parole and youth services organizations, COGI leverages other outreach initiatives including:

  • Celebrating International Overdose Awareness Day (August 31).
  • Celebrating Red Ribbon Week (Oct 23-29).
  • Creating the COGI Cares program to help fund client needs outside of direct care.

3. Understand regional and statewide needs

In 2016, COGI was also named a trauma informed center by the Behavior Health Alliance of Rural Pennsylvania. This distinction assists the center with establishing whole person care coordination with trainings and collaborations with trauma systems of care. Melochick says that next year, COGI plans to apply for the Drug Free Communities grant from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services to assist the county with more prevention funding.