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State offers free opioid training for first responders, health care providers

Any training that helps people fighting in the battle against opioid addiction is beneficial and helps bring attention to the problem, local officials said.

Numerous free, online training courses for child welfare professionals, first responders and health care providers are being offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health in an effort to prevent unintentional drug overdoses. The courses include continuing education credits for health care providers and first responders.

“More and more evidence-based training is always becoming available,” said Brandon Savochka, director of the county human services department. “The training is continuing to evolve.”

Changing Pathways

County Children and Youth Services agency and Mental Health program caseworkers receive their training through a three-day Hope is Dope program at Butler County Community College, Savochka said.

Every year, those caseworkers receive a minimum of 20 hours training that is designed to meet the individual caseworkers’ training needs, which vary by experience, he said.

Another source for CYS training is the University of Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center in Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County, which is funded by the state Department of Human Services.

“This covers all aspects of child welfare,” Savochka said, about the Child Welfare Resource Center training.

The online child welfare training offered by the state is through St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

First responder training includes the use of overdose-reversing naloxone, helping patients avoid the shame and stigma that can inhibit them from obtaining treatment and safety, linkages to treatment and stress of first responders.

County Commissioner Kevin Boozel, a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician, said any training that brings attention to substance abuse issues can be helpful.

He said the training is useful as long as it counts as credit toward continuing education.

For health care providers, the department is offering a host of training programs including several about using the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which collects information on all filled prescriptions for controlled substances to help providers safely prescribe them.

Treatment of substance abuse disorder, opioid prescriptions in dentistry and strategies for improving maternal and infant health related to opioid use.

Survey aims to fill gaps

In addition, the department recently asked health care providers to participate in a needs assessment survey being conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Program Evaluation and Research Unit.

The survey is intended to identify gaps in health care provider education topics such as opioid and stimulant prescribing, treating patients with pain and linkage to care for patients with substance use disorder.

Results from this survey will be used to inform a new statewide training curriculum that will be available to health care providers and their teams at no cost late this year.

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