Fighting the epidemic

Customers Bank donates $40K to Family Service’s Center of Excellence, which provides treatment for opioid-related substance abuse

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

The number of deaths caused by opioid-related overdoses rose nearly 50 percent from 2015 to 2016. With these rates continuing to climb, the opioid crisis in not only Bucks County, but Pennsylvania as a whole, is becoming an epidemic. So what can be done?

Helping hands: Pictured are (from left) Dominick Paciolla, Customers Bank branch manager; Audrey Tucker, Chief Executive Officer of Family Service; Ben Ciliberto, 1st Vice President of Family Service Board of Directors; and Joseph E. Schupp, senior vice president and Community Reinvestment Act Officer at Customers Bank. PHOTO: Nicki Bedesem

At Family Service Association, a Langhorne-based nonprofit organization, it’s all about staying ahead of the curve and making sure people don’t fall through the cracks. Last fall, Family Service became one of 50 agencies across the state to open a Center of Excellence, the brainchild of Gov. Tom Wolf to help ensure people with opioid-related substance use disorders stay in treatment and receive the necessary support. Recently, Customers Bank donated $40,000 to help Family Service expand its center’s space to accommodate all who need its help.

According to Director of Clinical Services Lisa Clayton, who oversees Family Service’s Center of Excellence, the basics of the center were made possible thanks to a grant composed of state and federal funding. A team was formed of care coordinators, which includes certified recovery specialists and nurses who collaborate to help clients get their lives back on track. Team members provide a warm handoff from one level of care to the next until the client has all the resources necessary to find housing, a job, insurance and other life needs.

“We help them not fall through the cracks,” Clayton said. “It’s a bridge, a warm hand off.”

Though its Center of Excellence has had a top-notch team of care coordinators since the beginning, Family Service’s Langhorne facility wasn’t built for these services. For many months, the team worked out of a conference area in the back of the building, making do with what they had.

Thanks to a recent donation of $40,000 from Customers Bank, the Center of Excellence staff will have a less-cramped area to call home. An entire wing of the agency was reconstructed to better suit the care coordinators’ needs, including offices to meet with clients, male and female bathrooms, large group rooms and a larger conference area.

“The recovery services provided by Family Service are critical to the health and well-being in our community,” said Joseph Schupp, senior vice president and Community Reinvestment Act officer at Customers Bank. “Customers Bank is dedicated to investing in the Bucks County community and ensuring that all members of our community have access to the support they need.”

With this newly expanded space, Family Service can continue to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to substance use disorder treatment which, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, is the reason it was chosen to build a Center of Excellence.

The organization is the only outpatient provider in Bucks County to earn the status of “Co-occurring Enhanced Treatment Provider” in accordance with Magellan Behavioral Health of Pennsylvania’s guidelines. This means Family Service is uniquely qualified to provide specialized treatment to those high-risk individuals who are not only affected by the opioid epidemic, but also have drug, alcohol and mental health disorders.

Throughout her years in the field, Clayton has witnessed the opioid epidemic significantly grow over the years both locally and nationally with Pennsylvania among the top 10 states for highest opioid use and overdose rates. According to Bucks County Coroner Dr. Joseph Campbell, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids — heroin and opioid-based prescription painkillers — rose to 185 last year in Bucks County, an increase of nearly 50 percent from 2015.

Clayton fully believes the Centers of Excellence across the state save lives and prevent people from relapsing. The care coordinators are always available and work to support the person as a whole to show them they’re more than an addiction — they have a community that cares about them.

“Addiction does not discriminate. Lives are shattered without regard to income, race, ethnicity, gender or educational attainment,” said Marlene Piasecki, chief operational officer at Family Service. “And the road to recovery is not an easy one. We meet clients where they are — that may be at an emergency room, a rehabilitation facility, their home or on the streets — and we do whatever it takes to prevent them from becoming a casualty of this tragic epidemic.” ••

Family Service’s Center of Excellence serves adults 18 and older who have an opioid use disorder or are actively using opioids and are eligible for Medicaid. To access services, call 215–757–6916, Ext. 150. Family Service is located at 4 Cornerstone Drive in Langhorne. For more information, visit fsabc.org.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com