Governor Wolf on Fatal Overdose Stats: We Must Keep Fighting, Not Start Cutting

June 09, 2017

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today said that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) statistics on fatal overdoses in Pennsylvania increasing again last year are a call for the state and federal government to redouble efforts to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic, not dial efforts back with funding cuts. Further, Governor Wolf said proposals at the federal level to cut Medicaid would likely lead to these disturbing numbers going up.

“The latest DEA figures on heroin and opioid deaths in Pennsylvania are extremely disturbing, and reinforce that Pennsylvania and the federal government must fight even harder to combat the damage done to our families and communities by heroin and opioids and the disease of addiction,” Governor Wolf said.

“Budget cuts take us in the wrong direction. We must continue to put resources into treatment and tools for law enforcement, health professionals and families on the front-lines, while also expanding education and prevention programs and ending the stigma of addiction.”

“I have held dozens of roundtable discussions across Pennsylvania and heard the same message everywhere: we need more help. We are seeing 13 people each day die in Pennsylvania and we can’t stand by and do nothing – or worse. State government and our federal partners must ensure that no resources in the fight against this burgeoning crisis are cut. Pennsylvania has taken action, but there is clearly more to do.”

The DEA’s statistics, first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, show a 37 percent increase in fatal overdoses in 2016 compared to 2015. Of those 4,642 fatal overdoses, the DEA attributed 85 percent to prescription or illegal opioids, including heroin, according to the report.

A comprehensive list of new and expanded initiatives in Pennsylvania aimed at fighting this epidemic can be found here. Pennsylvania’s can call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to get assistance with substance use disorder.

Governor Wolf further called on state lawmakers to preserve funding for key programs to provide aid to those suffering, including funding for:

•The commonwealth’s 45 ‘Centers of Excellence’ – outpatient, holistic treatment programs that provide substance use treatment with the explicit goal of integrating behavioral health and primary care;

•County-level human services, particularly Substance Abuse Treatment and Prevention and Mental Health programs; and

•Governor Wolf’s proposed first-ever dedicated funding to provide $10 million in grants for first responders and others to get Naloxone, the overdose antidote. To date, more than 3,500 lives in Pennsylvania have been saved by administering Naloxone.

Governor Wolf noted that the biggest threat to making progress on reversing the nation’s disturbing trend of increased overdose deaths is health care proposals at the federal level slated to make drastic cuts to Medicaid, end Medicaid expansion and roll back protections for those with substance use disorder.

“Gutting Medicaid and the expansion program could put treatment out of reach for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians with substance use disorder,” Governor Wolf said. “The frank reality of the direction Republicans are heading in Washington is that more people will die and these numbers will go up.”

Governor Wolf pledged to continue his fight against Medicaid cuts at the federal level and to preserve protections for people suffering with substance use disorder established in the Affordable Care Act.

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