March 21, 2018

Pa. governor signs disaster emergency in opioid crisis

12 January 2018, 11:53 | Opal Carroll

Gov. Wolf announces state of emergency for opioid epidemic

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

Tom Wolf declared the heroin and opioid epidemic a statewide disaster emergency on Tuesday but in "the process enacted a statute by the PA General Assembly years ago", said Joshua Prince, a lawyer at The Prince Law Offices in Pennsylvania, explained on The Rich Zeoli Show on 1210AM WPHT.

"In our first year, we were just trying to save lives", he said, saying he anticipates the declaration will be extended for another year. "It hits every age level, every creed, color and income level".

The ability to waive regulations, she said, will allow for the removal of some barriers to drug abuse treatment.

There are several reclassifications under the declaration.

A single event that killed more than 4,600 Pennsylvanians would be considered cataclysmic.

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. "It is the worst public health crisis that we have faced in Pennsylvania".

The main objective of the disaster declaration, officials said, is to temporarily waive regulations that can impede efforts to respond to the crisis, and to better coordinate the state-wide response.

There are also some expansions of data sharing like the prescription drug monitoring program that they say will make sure doctors and patients are in compliance.

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Wolf said the declaration includes 13 "key initiatives", which include enhancing coordination and data collection, speeding up and expanding access to treatment, changes to rules for EMTs responding to reported overdoses, and expanded roles for nurse practitioners who deal with addicts seeking recovery services, Wolf said Wedesday afternoon.

Such declarations, normally used in response to natural disasters, are limited by law to 90 days. Officials said that in the past three years or so, police in Pennsylvania have revived people about 5,700 times using naloxone.

The Pennsylvania physician general will reclassify fentanyl and similar drugs as Schedule 1 narcotics to limit access and open drug dealers to steep criminal penalties.

"We know that this crisis has taken far too many lives, it has broken far too many families, it has decimated far too many communities", Wolf said.

Also, the declaration authorizes first responders who rescue people from opioid overdoses to provide them with the antidote, naloxone, when they decline to go to a hospital. The Reading Eagle reported last month that Wernersville CCC had 31 nonfatal overdoses in the 21 months that ended November 4, more than any other halfway house in the state.

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

Governor Wolf has made fighting the opioid crisis one of his top priorities, and his announcement tomorrow will build on his efforts to address this looming public health issue.

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

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