In Bucks County, Governor Wolf Hosts Roundtable to Address Pennsylvania’s Opioid Epidemic

May 20, 2016

Bensalem, PA – Governor Tom Wolf and Representative Gene DiGirolamo were joined by legislators, local officials, law enforcement, and health care professionals at a roundtable in Bucks County today. The group discussed local and statewide efforts to lead the nation in combating the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemic in Pennsylvania.

In an effort to confront this epidemic collaboratively, Governor Wolf is conducting roundtables statewide to discuss the initiatives of his administration, the state legislature, county agencies, treatment centers, hospitals, and medical schools. The Wolf Administration is eager to engage in these local conversations in order to listen to local officials about the challenges that they are facing.

“Fighting Pennsylvania’s opioid and heroin epidemic is a top priority for my administration,” said Governor Wolf. “These roundtables are an opportunity to work collaboratively with the General Assembly and community leaders to ensure Pennsylvania leads the nation in the fight to combat the opioid abuse and heroin use crisis.”

Governor Wolf, Representative DiGirolamo, and Livengrin Foundation staff and board members were joined by a number of other state and local leaders at the Livengrin Foundation’s Bensalem location, including Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, Rep. Frank Farry, PA Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Gary Tennis, Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, Bensalem Mayor Joe DiGirolamo, Bensalem Police Department Director of Public Safety Fred Harran, Director of the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission Diane Rosati, PSP Corporal Keye Wysocki, and Bensalem School District Superintendent Dr. Sam Lee.

“The opioid crisis has taken far too many lives in our community and around the state,” said Rep. DiGirolamo, chairman of the House Human Services Committee. “Each person lost to an overdose or having succumbed to an addiction is someone’s child, and the personal stories associated with each of these cases is beyond heart-breaking. Addressing this crisis to prevent more of these tragedies is going to take a multi-pronged approach, from policymakers, community leaders, addiction and recovery specialists, and the medical community. Meetings like this help to ensure that we can exchange ideas moving forward and remain committed to our overall goal of saving lives.”

The Wolf Administration hopes that these discussions are just the beginning of a larger conversation with both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate as well as local officials, law enforcement, emergency responders, and health care professionals.

“I look forward to continue working collaboratively with the General Assembly and community leaders to ensure Pennsylvania leads the nation in the fight to combat the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemic,” said Governor Wolf. “The magnitude of the addiction and overdose death epidemic in Pennsylvania is shocking: at least seven Pennsylvanians die every day from a drug overdose. With nearly 2,500 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2014 and estimates that the 2015 total will be higher, a collaborative effort on the federal, state, and local levels is crucial in combating this crisis.”

Some of the administration’s initiatives in the fight against heroin include: signing a statewide standing order for naloxone, making it possible for all Pennsylvanians to access this life-saving drug; equipping the Pennsylvania State Police with naloxone so that those troopers who are first on the scene of an overdose can have another tool on-hand during these emergencies; partnering with Adapt Pharma to make Narcan available to public high schools across the state at no cost; developing the ABC-MAP prescription drug monitoring program to detect and prevent prescription fraud and abuse, which contribute to addiction; and appointing a director for the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) Office, who will work to ensure that the PDMP meets its goal of assisting healthcare professionals in identifying patients that would benefit from treatment.

In an effort to curtail drug addiction and curb the supply of excess drugs that can be used illicitly, the Department of Health is leading an effort to build upon the opioid prescribing guidelines already created, including specialty specific guidelines for emergency department providers, dentists, obstetricians and gynecologists, and pharmacists. These guidelines give healthcare providers direction for safe and effective pain relief practices, with greater emphasis on non-opioid therapies and greater caution to prevent addiction and diversion. In addition, the DOH recently joined dozens of healthcare organizations, medical experts, and consumer advocacy groups in signing petitions requesting changes to federal pain management requirements that are believed to foster dangerous prescribing practices.

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs has led a statewide initiative to get naloxone into the hands of municipal police departments. To date, more than 320 municipal police departments are equipped with naloxone, and those departments have reversed more than 900 overdoses as a result of that effort. DDAP also has developed a “warm hand-off” policy, mandating county-level drug and alcohol administrators to create processes whereby overdose survivors are taken directly from the emergency department to a licensed drug treatment provider. In some areas of the Commonwealth, early reports indicate as many as 50 percent to 70 percent of overdose survivors are getting into treatment immediately through this process. Under DDAP’s leadership, Pennsylvania’s Prescription Drug Take-Back Program is helping communities properly dispose of unused and unwanted prescriptions. To date, there are nearly 450 take-back boxes located at police stations across Pennsylvania. In 2015, more than 56,000 pounds of prescription drugs were taken back and destroyed.

Governor Wolf’s decision to expand Medicaid eligibility in Pennsylvania under the Affordable Care Act has greatly increased access to treatment services for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.

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