In NEPA, Governor Wolf Continues Roundtables to Address Pennsylvania’s Opioid Epidemic

May 13, 2016

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf was joined by Sen. Mario Scavello, Rep. Rosemary Brown, Sen. John Gordner, and Rep. Tarah Toohil, 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 Stroudsburg and Hazleton, including PA Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel and PA Director of Homeland Security Marcus Brown. The governor lauded the efforts of Sen. Mario Scavello and Rep. Rosemary Brown at a roundtable at the Monroe County Public Safety Center this morning. In the afternoon, the governor touted the work of Sen. John Gordner and Rep. Tarah Toohil at Penn State Hazleton.

“It is important for all stakeholders to come together to address the ongoing heroin and opioid abuse epidemic in the Commonwealth. The Legislature, the Governor’s Office, local officials, and community leaders need to work together to address the pressing need for prevention and treatment for those affected, said Senator Scavello. “Heroin and opioid abuse affects families, friends, neighbors – it does not discriminate in the victims it chooses. I am pleased to join my colleagues in fighting to address this important health crisis and bring the resources needed to prevent further individuals from being affected.”

“Opioid and heroin addiction is a serious state issue, and it is significantly impacting our local community, families, and children here in Monroe and Pike counties. I speak consistently with families affected by addiction, and I am committed to assisting with this issue in any way possible. Currently, I do have legislation introduced (HB1699) to limit prescribing in emergency rooms to help monitor possible addiction and the resale of opioids,” said Representative Brown. “I thank the Governor for making a stop in Monroe County to listen to how this is affecting us locally and to deeper discuss possible real-world solutions and recommendations.”

“The heroin and opioid epidemic is affecting every demographic in every community in our Commonwealth,” said Senator Gordner.  “I appreciate Governor Wolf’s efforts to commit resources to this problem and I appreciate that he is coming to our community to discuss how we can work together to combat this crisis.”

“Clearly, we are up against a formidable enemy. As opioid and heroin abuse grows, we need to aggressively address it in our communities,” said Rep. Toohil. “I commend the governor for coming to Hazleton to raise public awareness about the drug epidemic and discussing possible solutions. There is no doubt, we must all work as one to reduce the number of overdose deaths across the Commonwealth.”

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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