January 23, 2019

Pennsylvania heroin and opioid epidemic a disaster, governor says

12 January 2018, 11:54 | Devin Moran

Gov. Wolf to make announcement of new executive action in fight against heroin and opioid epidemic

While some officials have applauded Gov. Tom Wolf's declaration of a state of emergency over the opioid crisis a gubernatorial candidate is saying this should have happened some time ago. This file

Under the disaster declaration issued Wednesday, the state will carry out a series of initiatives devised with input from agencies including the health department, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and state police. Wolf said he hopes cooperation and coordinated effort during that time will produce an approach that can succeed in curbing the crisis.

Jennifer Smith, the acting secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, said the governor's order will allow the state to temporarily freeze regulations to allow people to get into treatment more quickly.

But the higher profile attention has not stemmed the crisis in the state.

Pennsylvania suffered more than 4,600 fatal overdoses in 2016, an increase of more than one-third from the prior year.

Adding overdose and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome as reportable conditions to increase data collection.

Diamantoni said Wednesday there have been some local deaths from overdoses this year, although the number was not immediately available.

"Now, the federal government must do its part so that states don't have to deal with this alone".

A strong message from the governor, he said, sends a message to the entire bureaucracy that it needs to address the crisis cooperatively. Still, Wolf and others acknowledged the disaster declaration is no "silver bullet" that will solve the crisis.

The declaration is the first-of-its-kind for a public health emergency in Pennsylvania and will utilize a command center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to track progress and enhance coordination of health and public safety agencies. But Butler, with 35 fatal overdoses in the city limits previous year, was by far municipality with the most opioid-related deaths.

"I was excited, number one, that he made a decision to declare it an emergency, so that it gets more of a microscope held to the issue", she said.

"You have to put some oomph into it", Benjamin said.

"The deadly extent and depth of the opioid crisis demands extraordinary actions". Preliminary data shared by Wolf shows 5,260 people died from drug overdoses in 2017 - the highest tally ever recorded and a almost 15-percent jump over the previous year.

Empty bank accounts are forcing states to get creative.

"I have introduced legislation that would invest $45 billion in programs that combat opioid addiction and provide treatment for those who need it". 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.

"Pennsylvania has a big problem, and we need to confront it", Wolf said. "The vast majority of them were from fentanyl", said Cook.

The move is appropriate, though, considering the seriousness of the problem, "the worst public health crisis we've faced" in a generation, she said. Opioid addiction is "a chronic disease of the brain".

"Pennsylvania now becomes the eighth state to declare such a State of Emergency". In November 2014, then-Gov. New laws can not be created under the emergency.

The effort may be paying off. Almost 85 percent involved opioids. It was the second consecutive quarterly report estimating an overall decline in opioid-related deaths.

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