Governor Wolf Pushes Need for Opioid Addiction Resources at White House Rural Forum

October 05, 2016

State College, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today joined U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding at the White House Rural Forum in State College to urge lawmakers, non-profit stakeholders, and the private sector to recognize opportunities in America’s rural communities to ensure continued social and economic progress. During his keynote address, Governor Wolf specifically addressed the opioid crisis facing Pennsylvania.

“No matter how much we invest in transportation, technology, business and manufacturing, or in healthcare, the sad reality is that our rural communities will not succeed if we don’t stem the tide of the opioid crisis that is taking the lives of too many of our people,” Governor Wolf said. “I appreciate that Secretary Vilsack has recognized that this crisis disproportionately affects rural communities, partly because of lack of outreach and treatment resources that are not as available in remote areas. Working together with local, state, and federal partners, we can fight back against this terrible crisis.”

Last month, Governor Wolf convened a Joint Session of the General Assembly to outline his collective plan to the lead the nation in combatting the opioid and heroin crisis facing Pennsylvania. During his address, the governor outlined the following priorities:

Strengthen the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

Physicians should check the commonwealth’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program each time they prescribe opioids. Our current law only requires doctors to check the system the first time they prescribe to a patient, or if they believe a patient is suffering from the disease of addiction.

In addition, dispensers should be required to enter data into the database within 24 hours of issuing a prescription, rather than the current standard of 72 hours. Strengthening program requirements is imperative in helping doctors and pharmacists identify whether patients are doctor shopping or other doctors are overprescribing patients. State officials also need the tools to identify inappropriate prescribing and dispensing practices among health care providers to better crack down on abuse.

Improve and Increase Education

We must prepare doctors and physicians for prescribing opioids and pain management by improving medical school and continuing education curricula on opioids. This will give doctors the knowledge and best practices needed to tailor their clinical skills to identify signs of addiction and provide patients with information to avoid abuse or engage in meaningful treatment if they become addicted. We should also require schools to teach students about opioid misuse in existing drug and alcohol abuse curricula.

Limit Opioid Prescriptions to Emergency Room Patients and Minors

We should limit the number of opioids a patient can receive at emergency rooms to a seven day supply with no refills. We should put the same restriction in place for minors no matter where they get a prescription. This would not make it harder for physicians to prescribe opioids for legitimate pain. Those suffering from crippling pain need relief, and we must be careful to protect the ability of sufferers of long-term pain or victims of trauma to receive appropriate medication.

Insurance Coverage for Abuse Deterrent Opioids

Insurance companies should be required to cover abuse deterrent opioids – like they already have in Massachusetts. This will make it more difficult to abuse prescription drugs. While many people become addicted by simply swallowing pills, others crush pills to snort or smoke. Drug manufacturers are rapidly developing new technologies to prevent this kind of abuse. Deterrent measures can be important tools against intentional or unintentional abuse or overdoses.

Establish a Voluntary Directive

We should allow patients to establish a voluntary directive if they do not want to be prescribed opioids. This directive could be used by a patient to deny or refuse the administration or prescribing of an opioid drug by a practitioner.

“Every Pennsylvanian deserves a shot at achieving their dreams, regardless of whether they live in the biggest city or the smallest township,” said Secretary Redding. “We’re committed to investing in rural Pennsylvania, and we appreciate the $6 billion that USDA Rural Development has directed to projects in our state since 2009, but we also appreciate USDA and Secretary Vilsack’s leadership to combat the opioid crisis. It’s a challenge we hear about often that has taken too many lives, left too many family heartbroken, and decimated too many communities. Being able to work collaboratively with our federal partners is part of the approach we need to end this epidemic.”

Under the leadership of President Obama, Secretary Vilsack said the USDA and other federal agencies have advanced a new approach of engagement with communities that is collaborative and community-led, enabling it to leverage public and private assets to respond to specific barriers. For nearly eight years, this approach has been the hallmark of federal engagement with rural communities, including the creation of the White House Rural Council in 2011 to better coordinate policy and program delivery across agencies with the goal of making a greater impact in rural communities.

As a result of this new approach, Vilsack said significant gains have been made in rural America: rural household income climbed 3.4 percent in 2015, overall poverty and food insecurity have fallen dramatically, rural populations have begun to rebound, and non-metro areas have added more than 250,000 jobs since 2014, while the number of uninsured rural Americans is at an all-time low.

Stakeholders interested in engaging during and after Wednesday’s forum were encouraged to do so using #RuralResults on Twitter and Facebook.

Like Governor Tom Wolf on Facebook:

SHARE Email Facebook Twitter