Governor Wolf Requests Joint Session to Address Opioid Epidemic

September 16, 2016

Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Tom Wolf respectfully requested a Joint Session of the General Assembly at a time that is convenient for the House and Senate this fall. The purpose of this session would be to address the members of the House and Senate about our collective efforts to lead the nation in combatting the opioid and heroin crisis facing Pennsylvania.

“After consultation and discussion with legislative leaders, I believe we share the view that we can make the most profound and positive impact for the people of Pennsylvania by dealing with this issue as part of the remainder of the 2015-16 Legislative Session through a Joint Session, rather than calling a Special Session,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “I want to thank the House and the Senate for their dedication to ensuring that those suffering from the disease of addiction are getting the treatment that they need. However, we can and should, do more. I look forward to continuing to work with the legislature to continue to address this epidemic that we all care deeply about.”

After extensive conversations throughout the summer, Governor Tom Wolf and legislative leaders decided that the most timely and efficient way to make progress in the fight against the opioid epidemic would be to call a Joint Session, rather than a special session as previously discussed. A special session would require bills to be reintroduced with co-sponsor memos to be circulated, and each new bill would take a minimum of six legislative days to reach the Governor’s desk. For more information, read “Why Governor Tom Wolf Called a Joint Session to Address the Opioid Epidemic.”

Together with the legislature, the Wolf administration has made great strides in battling this epidemic. The 2016-2017 budget provided funding to implement 45 centers of excellence (COE) throughout the commonwealth that will treat nearly 11,000 people with substance use disorder. These centers will work with those suffering from the disease of addiction to make sure they get the comprehensive, holistic treatment they need to beat their disease.

Last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Health went live with the newly re-designed Prescription Drug Monitoring Program that will allow prescribers and dispensers to query and report information regarding the number of opioids prescribed, and to whom.

The administration also recently announced new prescribing guidelines for the safe and effective use of opioids in order to reduce the pattern of over-prescribing painkillers that have a high risk for abuse. These guidelines will help fight back against opioid abuse and heroin use before those habits even begin.

Under the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Program’s leadership, Pennsylvania’s Prescription Drug Take-Back Program is helping communities properly dispose of unused and unwanted prescriptions. To date, there are nearly 520 take-back boxes located at police stations across Pennsylvania. Since 2015, more than 145,000 pounds of prescription drugs were taken back and destroyed.

Substance use disorder affects people all across the commonwealth and that is why the search for effective solutions enjoys broad bi-partisan support. Together with the legislature, Governor Wolf will continue to fight to make sure Pennsylvanians have the resources we need to get our arms around this crisis.

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