Gov. Wolf Touts Efforts to Fight Opioid Epidemic, Expand Take-Back Boxes

March 22, 2019

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today joined representatives from Walgreens and its partners to outline his administration’s efforts in the fight against the opioid epidemic, including the success of drug take-back boxes.

“While the take-back program has been, and will continue to be, incredibly successful, we all know that we must do more to rid our communities of the scourge of the opioid and heroin addiction crisis,” Gov. Wolf said. “That’s why, from the beginning, my administration has taken proactive action to get in front of this crisis, and to give our communities the tools they need to fight back.”

Governor Wolf first signed a 90-day opioid epidemic disaster declaration in 2018, and the sixth renewal on March 20, so Pennsylvania could put the resources and expertise together to make a concerted effort to battle the epidemic. Today, there are 16 state agencies and many organizations partnering to fight the epidemic from all fronts.

The opioid and heroin crisis has hit Pennsylvania hard. According to the CDC, in 2015, more than 3,300 Pennsylvanians died from drug overdoses. There were more than 4,600 overdose deaths in 2016, and more than 5,300 in 2017.

“Preliminary data for 2018 indicates that we may have a decrease in deaths in some parts of the state and while that’s promising, there are still many more overdose deaths than there were just four years ago,” Gov. Wolf said. “We need to remain focused on expanding our efforts, many of which are working.”

Efforts that include getting more people into treatment, providing the lifesaving overdose reversal drug naloxone and funding 45 Centers of Excellence for substance use disorder treatment in communities across the state are all making a difference. The expansion of the drug take-back box program is also helping, Wolf said.

“My administration has created 813 drug take-back locations in all 67 counties, and they are helping to take dangerous drugs off the street and out of the hands of those who might misuse them,” Gov. Wolf said. “Since 2014, we have helped communities properly dispose of, and have destroyed, over 250 tons of prescription drugs.”

The governor was joined at Walgreens by representatives of AmerisourceBergen, Independence Blue Cross and Pfizer, partners with Walgreens in the drugstore chains’ safe medication disposal kiosks.

Walgreens has the kiosks at 14 Pennsylvania locations, including its flagship store at 1 South Broad Street where the event was held. In total, Walgreens has nearly 1,000 disposal kiosks across the country and has collected and disposed of more than 275 tons of prescription medications since the program began in 2016. The chain plans to expand the kiosks with help from its partners.

“Walgreens is pleased to work with leading healthcare organizations to expand the availability of year-round safe medication disposal options throughout Pennsylvania,” said Pat Carroll, M.D., Walgreens chief medical officer and group vice president. “Safe medication disposal kiosks are the best way to prevent unwanted medications from being accidentally or intentionally misused by someone else.”

Find a take-back box location for the disposal of prescription drugs in Pennsylvania here.

Learn more about how the Wolf Administration is battling the opioid epidemic here.

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