Pennsylvania Selected to Participate in National Governors Association Learning Lab on Combating the Opioid Epidemic

September 12, 2016

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania was one of seven states to be selected to participate in a National Governors Association (NGA) learning lab designed to combat the opioid epidemic. Last year over 3,500 Pennsylvanians died from drug overdose – that is an astonishing 10 deaths a day and up from the more than 2,500 reported deaths in 2014.

“I have made battling the opioid epidemic my top priority. The opportunity to participate in this program will guide and inform future practices in helping Pennsylvanians suffering from the disease of addiction,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “As we all know, the opioid epidemic does not discriminate – it affects Pennsylvanians from all walks of life. We can and should do more to address this matter that is plaguing all of our communities.”

The NGA learning lab is entitled “State Strategies for Reducing Overdose and Deaths from Heroin and Illicit Fentanyl,” and will allow members of the Wolf Administration to study best practices from Rhode Island, a leader in devising innovative strategies to combat the opioid epidemic. Specifically, the learning lab will give Pennsylvania the tools to develop a state action plan aimed at reducing overdose deaths related to heroin and illicit fentanyl by offering technical assistance and lessons learned from NGA staff and state experts in Rhode Island.

Substance use disorder affects people all across the commonwealth and that is why the search for effective solutions enjoys broad bi-partisan support. Governor Wolf will continue to fight to make sure Pennsylvanians have the resources we need to get our arms around this crisis. Here are some of the recent steps the Wolf Administration has taken to make sure we are doing everything we can to fight the opioid epidemic:

Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

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 goal of the prescription drug monitoring program is to assist health care professionals with prescribing and dispensing medications safely and referring identified patients to treatment.

Opioid Prescribing Guidelines

The administration 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 such a high risk for abuse. These guidelines will help fight back against opioid abuse and heroin use before those habits even begin. These guidelines have been adopted by the State Board of Medicine, the State Board of Pharmacy, and the State Board of Dentistry, the State Board of Geriatric Pain, State Board of Osteopathic Medicine, and the State Board of Ob-Gyns.

Prescription Drug Take-Back Program

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 450 take-back boxes located at police stations across Pennsylvania. In 2015, more than 56,000 pounds of prescription drugs were taken back and destroyed.

Centers of Excellence

In addition, 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 the victims of SUD to make sure they get the comprehensive, holistic treatment they need to beat their disease. These centers will be the first stop for people looking for adequate and effective treatment.


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