BLOG: Governor Wolf’s Notes from Front Lines Show Treatment Resources Cannot Wait
By: J.J. Abbott, Deputy Press Secretary
June 27, 2016
When it comes to the need for new resources to fight the opioid crisis facing every community in Pennsylvania, people on the front lines agree: we can’t wait any longer.
Over the past few months, Governor Wolf has personally organized and attended two dozen roundtable discussions with community leaders on how the state can do more to help communities overcome the public health epidemic of heroin and opioid addiction. You can see all of the stops on this map.
These roundtables were attended by bipartisan elected officials, district attorneys, law enforcement, coroners, addiction and recovery specialists, mayors, commissioners, drug and alcohol administrators, doctors and other medical professionals, school district superintendents, people recovering from addiction, and dozens upon dozens of others who spend every day in this fight.
The governor’s goal was to hear from people on the front lines of this crisis on what they needed the state to do and what changes the state could make to improve their ability to make an impact.
At each of these roundtables, Governor Wolf took his own notes – which translate into pages and pages that show both the breadth of action needed to address this problem and the agreement amongst people on the front lines on the need for urgency, action, and most importantly, resources.
Some will say: money alone won’t solve this crisis. They’re right – there’s a lot of policies that need to change too. But people on the front lines do need resources to save as many lives as possible.
In 2014, nearly 2,500 Pennsylvanians died from a drug overdose. Heroin and opioid overdose are the leading cause of accidental death in Pennsylvania, killing more individuals each year than motor vehicle accidents. That means these overdoses killed at least seven Pennsylvanians a day.
To give you an idea of how consistent the call for more resources is from those fighting this battle in all of our communities, we’ve gone through Governor Wolf’s notes and found a consistent theme on what problems they face and what they need from the state:
- Northampton County: “Money for treatment…we need resources to treat this disease”
- Delaware County: “Treatment- we need to revamp drug treatment options”
- Chester County: “Lack of treatment centers for people who want help”
- Bedford County: “Need for long-term treatment”
- Pittsburgh: “Behavioral health is a comprehensive problem that demands a comprehensive solution”
- York County: “Need more… treatment”
- Bucks County: “Treatment centers have trouble making ends meet with public funds that are inadequate”
- Luzerne County: “We need to blend medicines for treatment of addiction with long term treatment”
- Bucks County: “Takes too long to get into treatment, treatment matters”
- Lebanon County: “Not enough urgency to get people into treatment”
- Washington County: “We need more long term treatment”
Governor Wolf included $34 million in this year’s budget to establish new treatment centers and improve treatment options for Pennsylvanians struggling with substance abuse disorder. Once established through the Department of Human Services, the proposed Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) Centers of Excellence would be the first stop for people in need of treatment – providing medication-assisted treatment and connecting those in-need with appropriate wraparound services, such as cognitive-based therapies and employment assistance.
This funding would be matched by an additional $18 million in funding from the federal government – meaning a total of $52 million for the Department of Human Services to implement 50 OUD Centers of Excellence that will treat more than 11,000 people that currently are not able to access treatment. Governor Wolf also supports a separate proposal to give county drug and alcohol agencies $12 million more.
As the Citizens’ Voice editorial board said earlier this month, “solutions to the drug problem exist; we only need to pay for them.”
Treatment funding is long overdue and we need to give law enforcement and local governments more resources to fight this epidemic now before any more Pennsylvanians die because they lack access to quality treatment in their communities.
As noted by those Governor Wolf met on the front lines, we truly cannot afford to wait.
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