As Opioid Deaths Rise, an 8th State Declares a Disaster

Alicia Farmer
January 11, 2018

Asked for specifics, the source said measures that could follow would include the re-issuance of the statewide standing order permitting any Pennsylvanian with concerns about a friend or relative to obtain a dose of Naloxone for emergency use at home, or permitting ambulance crews to leave doses of the drug behind in the event that patients refuse further treatment. But the long-term solution requires a more systemic, coordinated response.

WILKES-BARRE - Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday issued the first-ever public health disaster declaration that he said will enhance the state response to the opioid epidemic.

The move is a first of its kind for Pennsylvania, which has one of the highest rates of drug overdoses in the country.

"I routinely challenge all commonwealth agencies to think innovatively about how they continue to address the opioid epidemic and seek solutions that last long beyond our tenure in this building", Governor Wolf said. Governor Wolf's disaster declaration will enable state agencies to waive regulations, lowering barriers to treatment. These steps are in addition to earlier actions by the governor in launching the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, providing funding to implement Centers of Excellence for treatment, and providing law enforcement and first responders with naloxone.

Acting Drug and Alcohol Secretary Jennifer Smith says she'll consider making some of the changes permanent if they appear to be making a difference.

Treatment professionals welcomed the governor's proclamation and the steps the administration plans to take on account of it.

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Beck said the move to make it easier to get people into treatment "is probably a good thing".

Wolf acknowledged that the declaration is not a "silver bullet", but hoped it would streamline the state's attack.

"The opioid and heroin crisis has rightfully drawn bipartisan attention in Congress and all levels of government, with President Trump having already taken the extraordinary step of declaring a nationwide public health emergency". This declaration will bring additional resources to bear on this horrific public health emergency that has ripped apart far too many families.

Governor Wolf made the decision based on the continuing crisis and the devastating numbers associated with the epidemic.

"I have introduced legislation that would invest $45 billion in programs that combat opioid addiction and provide treatment for those who need it". The Office of Attorney General arrests on average more than 4 drug dealers a day. Overdoses and neonatal abstinence syndrome are now reportable conditions to the health department, giving them better data on where non-fatal overdoses are taking place to send resources.

Wolf's declaration is created to increase access to treatment and save lives.

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