Governor Wolf Recognizes Pennsylvania Police Officers for Reaching 1,000 Overdose Reversal Milestone

June 13, 2016

Harrisburg, PA — Governor Tom Wolf today recognized police officers across the Commonwealth for reversing more than 1,000 opioid overdoses in over one year. The Wolf Administration made Naloxone available to State Police and other law enforcement and emergency personnel in April 2015.

“Fighting Pennsylvania’s opioid and heroin epidemic is a top priority for my administration,” said Governor Wolf. “Our effort to make naloxone available to first responders is a key part of our strategy, and it is paying dividends in lives saved. I am proud of the work of my administration, and I am proud to stand here today with the people who have made this life-saving work happen, most especially our police officers.”

Standing alongside uniformed police officers, Governor Wolf, along with Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Secretary Gary Tennis, Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine, and representatives from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA), and the recovery community, thanked and praised police for their life-saving work.

“I am here today to thank all of the police officers across the Commonwealth who are equipped with naloxone and who have saved lives,” Secretary Tennis said. “This is a bittersweet milestone. Our officers continue to fulfill their commitment to protect and serve and have saved many lives that, without their willingness to carry naloxone, otherwise may have been lost. For that we are grateful. But the sheer number of overdose reversals also demonstrates just how serious and devastating the opioid overdose death epidemic is and how much work remains to be done.

“I am also here today to thank those who have enabled the police to carry naloxone – Governor Wolf for his commitment to addressing the epidemic and his order that all Pennsylvania State Police carry naloxone; Physician General Levine for her work on the standing orders that have made naloxone available to all Pennsylvanians; the legislators who worked hard to pass Act 139; the insurance companies who have so generously donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for naloxone for the police; the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency for its funding support; the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and its members, who have been linchpins in the effort; and the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, which has been a conduit to municipal police across the Commonwealth.”

Along with Physician General Levine, who signed a standing order giving law enforcement officers and firefighters the ability to access naloxone, DDAP raised more than $600,000 from health insurers across Pennsylvania to provide naloxone to police at no cost. Grant money provided through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency also was used to purchase naloxone. The PDAA and PCPA managed the money and worked with municipal police departments and county district attorneys to pay for the medication.

With nearly 2,500 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2014 according to the Pennsylvania Coroners Association and estimates that the 2015 total will be higher, police are instrumental in saving the lives of anyone who overdoses on prescription pain medication or heroin. According to a Center for Rural Pennsylvania survey of police departments, police are first on the scene of an overdose approximately 70 percent of the time.

Naloxone is a medication that can temporarily reverse an overdose that is caused by an opioid drug (prescription pain medication or heroin). When given during an overdose, naloxone blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores breathing within two to eight minutes. Naloxone has been used safely by medical professionals for more than 40 years and has only one function: to reverse the effects of opioids on the brain and respiratory system in order to prevent death.

“Naloxone has no potential for abuse,” Physician General Dr. Levine said. “A person can’t get high or become addicted to it, and it is safe to use. It’s important to remember that although police and other first responders now have access to naloxone, family members and friends can also access this medication by obtaining a prescription from their family doctor or by using my standing order, which is a prescription written for the general public, rather than specifically for an individual. Often times, it’s a family member or friend who is first to find the overdose victim, and minutes can be the difference between life and death. I encourage anyone who is suffering with an opioid addiction or is regularly taking prescription opioids for pain, as well as their families, to have naloxone in their homes.”

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