Tube City Community Media Inc. is seeking freelance writers to help cover city council, news and feature stories in McKeesport, Duquesne, White Oak and the neighboring communities. High school and college students seeking work experience are encouraged to apply; we are willing to work with students who need credit toward class assignments. Please send cover letter, resume, two writing samples and the name of a reference (an employer, supervisor, teacher, etc. -- not a relative) to tubecitytiger@gmail.com.

To place your ad, email tubecitytiger@gmail.com.
Ads start at $1 per day, minimum seven days.

New Detox Unit at UPMC McKeesport Addresses 'Growing Epidemic'

By Lynne Glover
The Tube City Almanac
January 18, 2018
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

A view of the new inpatient detox and rehab unit at UPMC McKeesport --- the only one of its kind in Allegheny County. (Submitted photo courtesy UPMC)

Every day in Allegheny County, between six and 14 people are admitted to a hospital emergency room after an overdose, according to a 2016 study by the county's departments of Health and Human Services.

With its soon-to-open detoxification and rehabilitation unit, UPMC McKeesport is “stepping up to address the growing epidemic,” says Mark Sevco, hospital president.

Epidemic indeed: In 2016 and 2017, there were 35 fatal overdoses in the McKeesport zip code, 15132.

On Jan. 10, one day before UPMC McKeesport held an open house for its soon-to-open inpatient detox and rehab unit, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf declared the heroin and opioid epidemic a statewide disaster emergency.

While a “small number” of the 100 daily patients in UPMC McKeesport’s emergency department are addiction-related, its relative patient load of individuals with addictions are more than other hospitals within the UPMC network, says Sevco, who also serves as president of UPMC East in Monroeville.

(UPMC photo)

More than 300 people showed up for the Jan. 11 open house at UPMC McKeesport — the only location in Allegheny County to combine two services within one inpatient unit.

Most of the attendees on that wintry day came from outpatient service agencies from across the county, according to Dawndra Jones, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services for UPMC McKeesport.

The idea of creating a seamless transition from inpatient detox and subsequent rehab at UPMC McKeesport to outpatient services will help fill a necessary gap.

“Here, they won’t have to leave the building,” Jones says, noting that in many cases once an addict leaves a hospital their inclination to go into detox and/or rehab often wanes.

“We have a seamless transition from emergency department to detox unit into rehab already here,” she says. “It allows that person to get into recovery and break that cycle of addiction.”

Carol Gross, executive director of Mon Yough Community Services, sees the combined unit at UPMC McKeesport as a “really important service for the Mon Valley.”

She says that transportation issues can be a deterrent for addicts seeking treatment and the opportunity to be admitted for detox or rehab directly from the emergency department will be beneficial.

Her agency, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of UPMC, serves 1,400 people annually in its addiction services programs.

UPMC officials are currently awaiting the call from the Pennsylvania Department of Drug Alcohol Programs to schedule a final walk through of the 27-bed unit located in the Crawford Building can be licensed.

Jones, who was a few minutes late to an interview because she was speaking with a representative from DDAP, says the state agency just told her they are “happy to support” UPMC McKeesport’s hospital-based program and it doesn’t foresee any delays.

Sevko notes the $500,000 investment was fully funded by UPMC with no outside funding for the unit, which was previously used as a medical-surgical unit.

For now, though, it’s a waiting game for the detox and rehab unit to open, with personnel trained and measures put in place to ensure it’s a safe environment for staff.

(UPMC photo)

A year in the making, UPMC McKeesport was selected as the site for this first-of-its-kind unit as a result of a community-needs assessment and because the hospital had the capacity to house it. At one time, the hospital had upwards of 400 licensed beds; it currently has 165.

Once opened, 18 beds will serve for detox patients with nine beds for rehabilitation. Ultimately, the plan is to allow for flexibility between the two populations depending upon patient needs.

The McKeesport unit, which is slated to open at the end of February, will have about 40 full-time equivalent staffers dedicated to the program, Jones says. It will employ the same medical director as UPMC Mercy’s detox unit, which is being used as a model.

A drug and alcohol rehab program at UPMC Chautauqua in Jamestown, N.Y., also was used as a model, but the “detox, drug, alcohol and rehab is unique for any facility to have together,” Jones says.

Lynne Glover is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh's East End.

Originally published January 18, 2018.

In other news:
"Clairton Couple Dead …" || "White Oak Rec Board S…"