SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Avi Rosenthal, Sean Houghton, Glenn Rossman, Ignacio M. Llorente, Xenia von Wedel

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PerformCare to Host Much-Needed Symposium on Opioid Dependence, Treatment and Public Policy

Mortality Rate From Opioid Overdose Up Nearly 90 Percent Since 1999

HARRISBURG, PA--(Marketwired - August 28, 2014) - PerformCare, a national full-service managed behavioral health care organization, will host "Crossroads: Converging Paths in Search of Sound Policy and Practice of Opioid Dependence Management" September 11 - 12, 2014, at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center, State College, Pa. The symposium will convene leading behavioral health experts and policy makers for presentations on the neurobiology and treatment of opioid dependence, as well as an analysis of public policies surrounding opioid abuse and addiction.

"Opioid dependency is taking a significant toll on individuals, families and communities across the commonwealth. PerformCare looks forward to increasing knowledge of opioid addiction and discussing the best treatment interventions available, as well as identifying workable solutions at the county and state levels to better combat the problem," said Cheryl Bowers-Stephens, M.D., M.B.A., chief medical officer at PerformCare.

Dependence on opioids, such as heroin, OxyContin, Vicodin and codeine, has become an increasingly deadly condition throughout the United States, particularly in Pennsylvania where, since 2008, more residents continue to die from overdoses than car accidents. In fact, the mortality rate due to overdose has increased by nearly 90 percent since 1999, and Pennsylvania now ranks 14th in the nation for deaths due to overdose.

"Medication-assisted treatment has been shown to be effective in helping patients recover. Leadership from health professionals and state and local policy makers is key to overcoming the barriers to expanding access to medication-assisted treatment," said Jean Bennett, Ph.D., regional administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Region III, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and symposium presenter. "PerformCare's leadership in hosting this much-needed symposium provides an outstanding opportunity for the continuing collaboration of a wide array of key stakeholders, including leaders from the Pennsylvania Departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Public Welfare and the Department of Health, toward our shared goals related to medication-assisted treatment."

Contributing to the complexities of the problem is methadone, the most common form of opioid addiction treatment. The medical and policy-making communities are divided about this controversial treatment option, as it is often negatively perceived as contributing to opioid dependency. The symposium will illustrate alternatives for treating opioid addiction so that policy makers have enough information to support the most appropriate treatment program for their respective districts. 

"Treatment with clinical integrity, along with effective prevention measures, can make significant strides in reducing the harmful effects of this disease. I applaud PerformCare for taking a leadership role in convening this symposium to address this serious challenge facing Pennsylvania," said Gary Tennis, secretary, Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol Programs, and symposium presenter.

Topics and presenters include:

  • Opioid Addiction: A Developmental Perspective - Deborah Simkin, M.D., child and adolescent psychiatrist, assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry, Emory University.
  • Neurobiology of Opioid Addiction and Physical Health Impacts - Thomas R. Kosten, M.D., professor of psychiatry, Baylor College of Medicine.
  • Current Treatment Implications and Interventions for Opioid Addiction - Deborah Simkin, M.D. and Thomas R. Kosten, M.D.
  • Federal and State Policies and Guidelines on Opiate Dependence - Jean Bennett, Ph.D.., Administrator, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, Region III; and David K. Kelley, Chief Medical Officer for Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's Office of Medical Assistance Programs.
  • Impact of Opioid Dependence on the System of Care: State Perspective - The Honorable Gary Tennis, secretary, Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol Programs and Dennis Marion, Pennsylvania deputy secretary for Mental Health/Substance Abuse Services; and The Honorable Dennis Marion, deputy secretary, Department of Public Welfare, Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
  • Current Treatment and Interventions for Opioid Addiction: The Pennsylvania Story - Dale Adair, M.D., medical director, Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Public policy panelists include:

  • George Hartwick, III, Dauphin County commissioner, chairman of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania Human Services Committee.
  • Dirk Matson, director of human services, Westmoreland County.
  • Doyle Heffley, state representative, Pennsylvania's 122nd District.

Symposium sponsors include AmeriHealth Caritas, PerformRx and Drexel University College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry/Behavioral Healthcare Education, which is providing continuing education units (CEUs). For more information or to register, please visit: http://www.performcare.org/crossroads/.

About PerformCare
PerformCare, part of the AmeriHealth Caritas Family of Companies, is an NCQA-accredited national behavioral health managed care organization that has been helping health plans and our customers provide comprehensive behavioral health management strategies and solutions designed to optimize clinical outcomes, maximize efficiency and integrate services. Founded in 1995, PerformCare serves more than one million members nationwide. For more information, visit www.performcare.org.

About AmeriHealth Caritas Family of Companies
AmeriHealth Caritas Family of Companies is one of the nation's leaders in health care solutions for those most in need. AmeriHealth Caritas operates in 16 states and the District of Columbia and serves more than 6 million Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP members through its Medicaid managed care products, pharmaceutical benefits management services, behavioral health services and other administrative services. Headquartered in Philadelphia, AmeriHealth Caritas is a mission-driven organization with more than 30 years of experience serving low-income and chronically ill populations. For more information, visit www.amerihealthcaritas.com

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