A new combined 27-bed addiction rehabilitation-detox facility will soon open at UPMC McKeesport.
UPMC said the unit, with 18 beds for detox and 9 for rehabilitation, will provide better continuity of care, since people can begin treatment in the same location where they undergo detox.
Dawndra Jones, McKeesport's chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care, described the process as "a warm handoff."
"We will be able to have that seamless transition," said Jones. "We believe ... that increases their success rate for recovery and getting towards wellness."
Allowing drugs or alcohol to fully leave one’s body can be a difficult and potentially dangerous process. UPMC said a benefit to having the unit based at the McKeesport hospital is that staff will be able to monitor patients with complex health conditions to help them transition to a more stable state post-detox.
Allegheny County won't release data on 2017 opioid fatalities until the spring. But this week health department director Dr. Karen Hacker warned the number will be even higher than 2016's record breaking year of 650 overdose deaths, the majority of which were opioid related.
"There's no question that we feel that there's more treatment that's needed in Allegheny County to help us with this opioid epidemic," said Hacker. "We're really happy to see that UPMC is making this type of effort, particularly in an area of our county where we know we have issues."
The McKeesport unit is currently waiting for state approval to open. UPMC said this could happen by the end of February if not sooner, especially in light of Gov. Tom Wolf’s recent declaration of the opioid epidemic as a public health disaster.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Pennsylvania saw more than 4,600 fatal drug overdoses in 2016, more than twice the national average.