Crozer-Keystone executives and behavioral health clinicians join Delaware County and Chester government officials to cut the cut the ribbon on the impending First Steps Treatment Center at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.
It’s been a constant refrain of law enforcement and medical professionals: Delaware County needs more treatment centers. From 2000 to 2015, Delaware County had nearly 300 deaths caused by heroin abuse – more than car accidents and gun violence. That statistic is from the office of Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan, who launched a heroin task force in 2012. In 2014, the county became the first in the state to equip police officers with naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal treatment commonly known as Narcan. In the first five months of the program, law enforcement officers used naloxone to save 32 lives.
Whelan and Delaware County Council enlisted Crozer-Keystone Health System in the war on heroin. As part of that, the council put forth $940,000 to support the opening of First Steps Treatment Center, Crozer-Chester Medical Center’s first in-patient substance abuse unit. “We had a robust outpatient service, but in-patient was lacking,” says Dr. Kevin Caputo, chairman of psychiatry and vice president for Behavioral Health for Crozer-Keystone. “One reason addiction treatment fails is that there isn’t a continuum of care. That’s what we’ll be able to provide.”
First Steps will accept its first patients at the end of February. More than 50 medical professionals were hired to staff the center. It will have 52 beds and four levels of care to address the needs of patients addicted to various substances and those at risk for overdoses and relapses. First Steps will also utilize Crozer specialists who treat pregnant addicts and the babies born to them.
Kevin Caputo, M.D., center, Crozer-Keystone’s chairman of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, provides a tour of the First Steps Treatment Center, to, left to right, Marianne Grace, executive director of Delaware County; John McBlain, Delaware County Council; Michael Culp, Delaware County Council; and Dave White, Delaware County Council.
“Our Heroin Task Force works each and every day to help prevent addiction, saves lives and get residents into recovery,” Delaware County Councilman Dave White said in a statement. “We are hopeful that our partnership with Crozer in opening this treatment center will save lives and get residents back on track to leading healthy and fulfilling lives.”
Caputo emphasizes that First Steps isn’t just for heroin and opioid addicts. Anyone struggling with substance abuse can seek treatment at the center. “Alcoholism is more prevalent than heroin addiction,” Caputo adds. “One out of six patients in the hospital system qualifies as needing treatment for alcohol. Opioids and heroin cause more deaths, but alcohol addiction is also a priority for us.”
As First Step patients, people struggling with addiction will have access to the full array of medical services at Crozer-Chester, including evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders, comprehensive services for mental health issues and subspecialists in cardiology, gastroenterology, infectious diseases, neurology, surgery and OBGYN.