Wolf Administration to Introduce Safe Opioid Prescribing Guidelines for Pediatric and Adolescent Populations

Philadelphia, PA – Today, the Wolf Administration’s Acting Secretary of Health and Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine, along with doctors and industry leaders in pediatric care at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), will take the next step in the fight to combat the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania by introducing the safe opioid prescribing guidelines for pediatric and adolescent populations. The introduction will take place at an event at CHOP’s Colket Atrium today at 1 p.m.

“We don’t often think of children and adolescents as being directly affected by this disease of addiction, but they can be more vulnerable than adults,” Governor Tom Wolf said. “The opioid crisis does not discriminate based on age or any other factors. My administration is committed to helping all Pennsylvanians impacted by opioid-use disorder overcome their disease, and to preventing the disease in our next generation.”

The opioid prescribing guidelines for pediatric and adolescent populations is the latest of 10 different guidelines written by the Safe and Effective Prescribing Practices Task Force. This task force, convened by the departments of Health and Drug and Alcohol Programs, includes members from other state agencies, representatives from medical associations, provider advocates and community members.

“These guidelines provide pediatricians and family doctors with tools to determine the best form of treatment and work to prevent children from becoming addicted to opioids,” Acting Health Secretary and Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine said. “It is essential that as medical professionals we prescribe these medications carefully so that children and adolescents do not develop opioid-use disorders.”

Other speakers at the event include CHOP Chief Operating Officer, Doug Hock; Dr. Wickham Kraemer, a pediatrician; and Dr. Carol Ford, one of the task force members.

Governor Wolf holds the fight against heroin and prescription opioids abuse as a top priority. To continue the battle against the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf included the following proposals in his 2017-18 budget:

  • Expanding access to life-saving naloxone by providing $5 million through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to first responders, law enforcement, and other public entities across the commonwealth;
  • Maximizing federal 21st Century Cures Act funding, which includes $26.2 million in each of the next two years for Pennsylvania, to expand access to treatment services, particularly for individuals who are uninsured or underinsured; and
  • Providing $3.4 million to expand specialty drug courts to expand treatment strategies that divert offenders into more meaningful treatment and recovery.

Some of the administration’s other initiatives to fight the opioid epidemic include:

  • Working with the legislature to establish a new law limiting the number of opioids that can be prescribed to a minor and to individuals discharged from emergency rooms to seven days;
  • Strengthening the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) through the legislative process so that doctors are required and able to check the system each time they prescribe opioids and benzodiazepines. To date, there have been more than 12 million patient searches made on the system;
  • Creating the warm handoff guideline to facilitate referrals from the emergency department to substance abuse treatment;
  • Teaming with the legislature to establish education curriculum on safe prescribing for medical schools;
  • Educating and encouraging patients to properly use, store and dispose of unused prescription medications through drug take-back initiatives, and expanding the number of drug take-back locations to more than 700;
  • Awarding four $1 million grants for medication-assisted treatment using a hub and spoke model for Pennsylvanians who are uninsured, under-insured or have private insurance.
  • Establishing a 24-hour helpline at 1-800-662-HELP for individuals suffering from addiction and their families and friends. The helpline has received more than 18,000 calls since introduced by the Wolf Administration one year ago, and is providing personal help to individuals.