In Bedford and Pittsburgh, Governor Wolf Continues Local Roundtables to Address Pennsylvania’s Opioid Epidemic

May 05, 2016

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf was joined by Sen. John Wozniak, Rep. Jesse Topper, Sen. Jay Costa, and Rep. Ed Gainey, as well as local officials, law enforcement, and health care professionals, at two roundtables today to discuss local and statewide efforts to lead the nation in combating the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemic in Pennsylvania.

In an effort to confront this epidemic collaboratively, Governor Wolf is conducting roundtables statewide to discuss the initiatives of his administration, the state legislature, county agencies, treatment centers, hospitals, and medical schools. The Wolf Administration is eager to engage in these local conversations in order to listen to local officials about the challenges that they are facing.

“Fighting Pennsylvania’s opioid and heroin epidemic is a top priority for my administration,” said Governor Wolf. “These roundtables are an opportunity to work collaboratively with the General Assembly and community leaders to ensure Pennsylvania leads the nation in the fight to combat the opioid abuse and heroin use crisis.”

Governor Wolf was joined by a number of other state and local leaders at events in Bedford and Pittsburgh. The governor lauded the efforts of Sen. John Wozniak and Rep. Jesse Topper at a roundtable at the Bedford County Library this morning. In the afternoon, the governor touted the work of Sen. Jay Costa and Rep. Ed Gainey at the Homewood location of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

“One of the ways that we can continue to fight this epidemic is to strengthen our families and our communities,” said Representative Topper. “We need to be vigilant in determining the root causes for drug addiction. This truly is a bipartisan effort and I thank the Governor for his interest and leadership on this issue.”

“The growing opioid crisis is crippling our communities,” Senator Costa said. “Apart from the devastating human toll on addicts and their families, there is a correlating financial consequence on state and local health agencies, prisons, and service delivery systems that we need to address. These conversations are critically important and will help us change and save lives.”

“I’m thrilled to join the governor today to discuss this important issue, one that is near and dear to me as chair of the bipartisan drug caucus HOPE, which stands for ‘Heroin Opiates Prevention and Education,’” said Representative Gainey. “Our mission at HOPE will be rehabilitation, education, and stopping the incarceration of people who are drug addicted. I am excited to bring the voice of HOPE to this roundtable today.”

The Wolf Administration hopes that these discussions are just the beginning of a larger conversation with both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate as well as local officials, law enforcement, emergency responders, and health care professionals.

“I look forward to continue working collaboratively with the General Assembly and community leaders to ensure Pennsylvania leads the nation in the fight to combat the opioid abuse and heroin use epidemic,” said Governor Wolf. “The magnitude of the addiction and overdose death epidemic in Pennsylvania is shocking: at least seven Pennsylvanians die every day from a drug overdose. With nearly 2,500 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2014 and estimates that the 2015 total will be higher, a collaborative effort on the federal, state, and local levels is crucial in combating this crisis.”

Some of the administration’s initiatives in the fight against heroin include: signing a statewide standing order for naloxone, making it possible for all Pennsylvanians to access this life-saving drug; equipping the Pennsylvania State Police with naloxone so that those troopers who are first on the scene of an overdose can have another tool on-hand during these emergencies; partnering with Adapt Pharma to make Narcan available to public high schools across the state at no cost; developing the ABC-MAP prescription drug monitoring program to detect and prevent prescription fraud and abuse, which contribute to addiction; and appointing a director for the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) Office, who will work to ensure that the PDMP meets its goal of assisting healthcare professionals in identifying patients that would benefit from treatment.

In an effort to curtail drug addiction and curb the supply of excess drugs that can be used illicitly, the Department of Health is leading an effort to build upon the opioid prescribing guidelines already created, including specialty specific guidelines for emergency department providers, dentists, obstetricians and gynecologists, and pharmacists. These guidelines give healthcare providers direction for safe and effective pain relief practices, with greater emphasis on non-opioid therapies and greater caution to prevent addiction and diversion. In addition, the DOH recently joined dozens of healthcare organizations, medical experts, and consumer advocacy groups in signing petitions requesting changes to federal pain management requirements that are believed to foster dangerous prescribing practices.

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is developing the “warm hand-off” process “warm hand-off” process, whereby overdose survivors would be taken directly from the emergency department to a licensed drug treatment provider, as well as Pennsylvania’s Prescription Drug Take-Back Program. This program helps communities properly dispose of unused prescriptions at any of the 400+ police station locations across Pennsylvania. To date, approximately 40,000 pounds of prescription drugs have been taken back and destroyed.

Governor Wolf’s decision to expand Medicaid eligibility in Pennsylvania under the Affordable Care Act has greatly increased access to treatment services for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.

Finally, Governor Wolf’s proposed 2016-17 budget provides more than $34 million to treat more than 11,250 new individuals with substance use disorder. The Department of Human Services will provide 25 new Opioid Use Disorder Centers of Excellence for individuals with substance use disorder, providing medication-assisted treatment and appropriate wraparound services, such as cognitive-based therapies. After this first phase of implementation, there will be a push for 25 more facilities that would have the capacity to treat 22,500 individuals total.

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