From Overdose to Treatment: WellSpan Provides a Handoff to Help

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Working with a community of partners, WellSpan has helped to lead the charge across Pennsylvania in implementing hospital-based, warm handoff programs to transition more drug overdose survivors into local treatment programs for their addictions.

The warm handoff protocol was developed by the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Drug and Alcohol Programs. The aim of the program is to connect healthcare providers and addiction recovery groups in local communities so that, together, they can help overdose survivors gain access to treatment and recovery options.

As part of the program, WellSpan Health works with community partners to help link up overdose survivors, upon being revived in the hospital emergency department, with treatment and counseling services, if they accept the offer of assistance.

Key partners at WellSpan York Hospital include the York/Adams Drug and Alcohol Commission and the RASE Project, a Central Pennsylvania nonprofit seeking to enhance the recovery process through positive interaction and empowering assistance.

“A warm handoff into drug treatment after an overdose is an essential step on the road to recovery from addiction,” said Rachel Levine, MD, Pennsylvania’s Physician General, during a visit to WellSpan York Hospital to recognize the initial success of its collaborative program.

“I applaud WellSpan York Hospital for creating a warm handoff program that saves lives in the local community,” added Dr. Levine, who is also Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

In the first six months of the program, WellSpan York Hospital made 118 referrals of overdose patients treated at its emergency department to the RASE Project. WellSpan has also launched a warm handoff program at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital, working together with the RASE Project and the Lancaster County Drug and Alcohol Commission. After the Ephrata program’s launch in spring 2017, 27 individuals were referred from the hospital’s emergency department to the RASE Project following their overdoses.

Based on these positive outcomes, a warm handoff program has recently been implemented at WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital in Adams County and is in development at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon County.

To learn more about what WellSpan is doing to help combat the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania, visit