Wolf declares Pa. emergency over heroin, opioid overdose crisis

Wolf declares Pa. emergency over heroin, opioid overdose crisis

Governor Tom Wolf signed a statewide disaster emergency declaration for the heroin and opioid epidemic.

Disaster emergency declarations are normally issued after severe weather emergencies.

"I don't take this action lightly".

"I am taking this step to protect Pennsylvanians from this looming public health crisis, and I am using every tool at my disposal to get those suffering from substance use disorders into treatment, save more lives, and improve response coordination", Wolf said.

Stating that the epidemic has "ripped apart far too many families", U.S. Sen.

The emergency proclamation covers 90 days because that's the maximum allowed by law.

Lawmakers intend to chime in with their own ideas about how to continue fighting the crisis, said state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks County, and state Rep. Matt Baker, R-Bradford County, in a joint statement.

According to the CDC, Pennsylvania had the fourth highest opioid overdose death rate in the country in 2016 - with more than 45-hundred lives lost. 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. Since taking office, the Governor has provided funding to implement 45 Centers of Excellence, launched a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, and provided law enforcement, first responders, and schools with naloxone, reversing almost 5,000 heroin and opioid overdoses.

Treatment is vital, she said, but the state also could assist with school programs to prevent students from becoming addicts in the first place. The Philadelphia Fire Department will launch an EMS unit this summer that's dedicated to responding specifically to drug overdoses in the city's Kensington and Fairhill neighborhoods. 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.

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. They're still certifying the final numbers. Previously, a doctor had to handle the job in a face-to-face interview. Hospitals won't be required to get a separate license to offer treatment, either.

Waiving annual licensing requirements for high-performing drug and alcohol treatment facilities.

"The declaration enables us to waive requirements on a broad basis without the need for those providers to submit specific requests to us", she said.

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