Everything You Need to Know About Centers of Excellence and Certified Recovery Specialists

Pennsylvania has the third-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But despite the state’s opioid crisis, only a small percentage of people who need help seek treatment.

There are many reasons for delaying treatment for drug use, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. Not only are people often unsure where to go and how to navigate the system, but they may also fear the stigma associated with substance use. Others drop out of treatment if they don’t have the right care and support to help them be successful.

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Centers of Excellence: Finding Opioid Treatment in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has taken steps to help Pennsylvania residents enrolled in Medicaid get access to the services they need.

In 2016, the state-funded the opening of Centers of Excellence for Opioid Use Disorder. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services selected 45 centers in Pennsylvania, located in hospitals, physician practices, and Federally Qualified Health Centers, including seven UPMC locations.

Centers of Excellence: What Do People Seeking Treatment Find?

At these centers, patients receive individual care coordination and support at every step on their journey to recovery. Services available through the Centers of Excellence include:

  • Compassion and support from a team of care providers.
  • Consultation with medical and psychiatric services.
  • Personalized support from a “Certified Recovery Specialist” who has experience and is in recovery from a substance use disorder.
  • Collaborative decision-making with the team to find the best type of care.
  • Medication assistance, when necessary, to help aid in the start the recovery process.
  • Resources and assistance to help manage other needs in order to stay engaged in treatment.

Certified Recovery Specialists: A Guide to Navigating Opioid Treatment

Certified Recovery Specialists, also referred to as “peers,” “peer navigators,” and “peer specialists,” work in the Centers of Excellence, including in UPMC hospitals.

The hospital-based specialists, funded in part by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Health Management Organizations, work with both patients and medical providers to link people to services in the community. Services may include referral to substance use disorder treatment, ongoing medical care, and the Centers of Excellence for ongoing support.

UPMC Centers of Excellence

While all UPMC hospitals and locations provide health care resources for patients with substance use disorders, UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital, the Department of General Internal Medicine, and UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital are distinguished as Centers of Excellence in Pennsylvania.

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital

UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital Addiction Medicine Services provides screening, prevention, intervention, assessment, treatment, education, and research related to people who have substance use disorders.

Services include:

  • Case management, screenings, assessments, and in-person support from trained staff and peer recovery specialists.
  • Individual counseling.
  • Intensive outpatient therapy groups at two locations (Oakland and Wilkinsburg).
  • Psychiatric and medication management services for people who have mental health disorders.
  • Methadone and other opioid maintenance medication for opioid use disorders.


UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

UPMC Magee’s Pregnancy Recovery Center addresses the effects of opioid addiction on pregnant women and their babies.

The program was created in conjunction with Allegheny County and four managed care organizations — Community Care, UPMC for You, Gateway Health, and United Healthcare Community Plan. The program provides pregnant women who need assistance with opioid use disorders the opportunity to begin outpatient treatment. The treatment is integrated with obstetric, behavioral health, and social services.

  • Postpartum pain management: Each person with substance use disorder receives a postpartum pain management plan. The Pregnancy Recovery Center collaborates with the Addiction Medicine Services Perinatal Addiction Center to provide behavioral health treatment for these women.
  • Inpatient methadone clinic: The inpatient methadone clinic at Magee offers medic-assisted treatment for women who have a positive pregnancy test and positive opioid screening.

The Women’s Recovery Center at Magee-Womens UPMC Hamot is similar to the Pregnancy Recovery Center. This outpatient program helps both pregnant women and women with children who have substance use disorders access prenatal care, medication-assisted treatment, and counseling to help stay on track.

Recovery Engagement Program

UPMC’s General Internal Medicine Recovery Engagement Program is located at UPMC Mercy, where patients are also able to establish a relationship with a primary care doctor.

Services include:

  • Face-to-face meeting with a team member within one business day of referral.
  • Medications with buprenorphine or naltrexone.
  • Behavioral health counseling.
  • Community-based support and guidance from certified recovery specialists.
  • Social service support from licensed social workers.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

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