In York, Governor Wolf Addresses Pennsylvania’s Opioid Epidemic
May 12, 2016
York, PA – Governor Tom Wolf was joined by Representative Kevin Schreiber, as well as local officials, law enforcement, and health care professionals, at a roundtable in York city 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 the event at Martin Library location of the York County Library System. Attendees included PA Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel, York County Coroner Pam Gay, District Attorney Thomas Kearney, Senior Deputy Prosecutor David Sunday, and members of the York County Heroin Task Force.
“The problem with heroin and its associated crime are growing in York County and across Pennsylvania,” Schreiber said. “I applaud Governor Wolf for being a leader on this issue by hosting roundtables across the state. He is hearing directly from those on the ground fighting back this epidemic, what is working and what is not so that he can put the full resources of our Commonwealth towards solutions. If we all work together, at the local and state levels, I am hopeful that we can combat the heroin epidemic.”
“York County has been a leader in many ways over the last two years in trying to address the prescription drug and heroin epidemic,” said Senator Wagner. “Two years ago, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Dave Sunday from the District Attorney’s Office and Coroner Pam Gay founded the York County Heroin Task Force, which I have served on from the beginning. Since then, this multifaceted group has accomplished a great deal, particularly with educating the community. But there are roadblocks preventing more people from getting the treatment they need, so I am glad the governor and his administration have chosen to come to York to hear the concerns we all have.”
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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