BLOG: Continuing Pennsylvania’s Fight Against Heroin

By: Gary Tennis, Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs

December 14, 2015

Today, I stood with Capital BlueCross officials as they announced their latest action in battling the heroin crisis in Pennsylvania. Capital BlueCross has donated $100,000 to further equip police across Pennsylvania with naloxone, a lifesaving opioid overdose reversal drug. Police have reversed more than 500 overdoses over the past year.

Pennsylvania’s Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine and I were honored to be part of the event alongside Capital BlueCross President and CEO Gary St. Hilaire, Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed, Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico, York County District Attorney Tom Kearney, Sgt. Jack Asper of the Northern York County Regional Police Department, and Mark McCullough, a Recovery Specialist at the RASE Project.


This outstanding move by Capital BlueCross is evidence of a statewide collaboration led largely by the Wolf administration to fight the heroin and opioid addiction and overdose epidemic.

First, and perhaps most important, the 2015-16 budget includes a $9 million initiative to combat the heroin epidemic. This funding will be distributed to the Departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Human Services, and Corrections. This much needed assistance will allow these departments to attack this epidemic head-on through better-funded addiction and recovery programs, an improved prescription drug monitoring system, and stocking more police cars with naloxone.


Earlier this month, Department of General Services Secretary Curt Topper announced that Pennsylvania Capitol Police are now trained to administer and will carry naloxone.

In October, Pennsylvania’s Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine signed a statewide standing order for naloxone, making it possible for all Pennsylvanians to access the life-saving drug.

Physician General Rachel Levine signs naloxone standing order

Department of Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera, Department of Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy, and I joined Governor Wolf in announcing support for the use of naloxone at schools across the commonwealth in a letter to districts sent this past September.

The Wolf Administration announced in April that the Pennsylvania State Police would carry naloxone, so that those troopers who are first on the scene of an overdose can have another tool on-hand during these emergencies.

In addition to these actions, the administration is currently working to develop the ABC-MAP prescription drug monitoring program to detect and prevent prescription fraud and abuse, which contribute to addiction. This program was the recipient of two federal grants this year: the 2015 federal Harold Rogers grant for $409,000 and a CDC grant of $900,000 to enhance, maximize, and support the implementation of ABC-MAP.

My department, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the PA National Guard, and the Attorney General’s office are also spearheading a drug takeback program that has to date collected almost 50,000 pounds of unused prescription drugs.

The rise in heroin addiction and prescription drug abuse has quickly led to a public health crisis in Pennsylvania, where one in four families suffer from the effects of substance abuse addiction. Heroin and opioid overdose are now the leading cause of accidental death in Pennsylvania, killing more individuals than those involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents. In 2014, 2,400 Pennsylvanians died from drug overdoses.

I am proud to have been part of Capital BlueCross’ announcement today, as it demonstrates the commitment that not only the Wolf Administration but also leaders in the healthcare field have to providing real solutions to save lives and to help addicted individuals and their families get the treatment they need to live long, productive lives.



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