Pennsylvania governor to issue disaster declaration for opioid epidemic

Laverne Higgins
January 11, 2018

From 2016 to 2017, opioid deaths in Pennsylvania surged more than 44 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the nation for drug overdose deaths, according to Wolf.

The declaration will create a new Opioid Coordination Group within the state Emergency Management Agency, and waive 12 regulations the administration says can slow down responses to people in need.

Jennifer Smith, secretary of the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, said she'll be able to quickly say yes to removing requirements set on the state's 800 treatment providers. Counties also will focus on integrated planning at the local level with all stakeholders involved (law enforcement, emergency and medical personnel, first responders, treatment staff and community leaders), coupled with additional resources to expand local capacity, so Pennsylvania can begin to reverse the epidemic.

"We know that this crisis does not discriminate", Wolf said. New laws can not be created under the emergency. The certificates are often required as proof of residency for insurance and treatment programs and can be a surprising barrier to getting into treatment.

"We look forward to working with the governor and the Senate to help those in the Commonwealth struggling with addiction", they said.

See NBC10's national award-winning special report on the opioid crisis, Generation Addicted, right now by tapping here.

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Some other initiatives include increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, allowing EMS to leave behind Naloxone at a user's home, and expanding the Department of Drug and Alcohol Program's 24/7 emergency drug hotline. Currently, anyone can purchase naloxone at a Pennsylvania pharmacy.

"The Office of Attorney General arrests on average more than four drug dealers a day", Shapiro said in a statement.

Better data collection is required under this declaration as well. Previously, those conditions were not reportable unless there was a death or the parent was poor. Often, health officials only have coroner data to rely on.

The drug monitoring program helps identify doctors who are over-prescribing and patients who are doctor-shopping to get drugs they may not need, he said.

The County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) today noted its support for the Governor's declaration of Pennsylvania's heroin and opioid addiction crisis as a statewide disaster emergency.

Gail Groves Scott, manager of the Substance Use Disorders Institute at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and a Lancaster Township resident, called Wolf's declaration "a disappointment to those who were hoping it would bring real change".

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