Gov. Wolf renews Pa.’s opioid disaster declaration for the sixth time

    Gov. Wolf renews Pa.'s opioid disaster declaration. (Handout photo)

    Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday renewed Pennsylvania’s opioid disaster declaration for the sixth time, giving the state more leeway to combat the addiction crisis.

    The Democrat signed the first 90-day declaration in January 2018. Since then, according to Wolf’s office, Pennsylvania has:

    • “Removed about 285 tons of prescription drugs from our streets through take-back boxes;
    • “Connected more than 5,000 Pennsylvanians to treatment through a warm hand-off program;
    • “Assisted more than 18,000 individuals with accessing treatment through one of our Centers of Excellence;
    • “Provided guidance to more than 43,000 individuals who have called our 1-800-Get-Help-Now hotline;
    • “Administered 21,419 live-saving doses of naloxone;
    • “Distributed more than 6,000 naloxone kits during “Get Help Now Day” in December;
    • “Implemented dozens of initiatives to increase access to treatment, aid in recovery, and innovatively spend federal State Opioid Response dollars to maximize their benefit.”

    As Dr. Rachel Levine, secretary of the Department of Health, said Friday, the Wolf administration wants to ensure that the overdose-reversal drug naloxone is widely available. Levine issued a standing order last year that makes the medication available at most pharmacies without a prescription.

    But that order has had unintended consequences, Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said.

    The Pennsylvania Insurance Department was recently contacted by consumers who believe they were denied life insurance or quoted an exorbitant rate because they sought a prescription for naloxone.

    Altman said the department would issue guidance to these insurers.

    “Our department strongly urges carriers to gather sufficient information to determine in what context an applicant or enrollee has obtained the prescription,” she said in a press release. “Prior to issuing an underwriting decision or making a rating decision, we encourage carriers to consider the reason for and intended use of an opioid reversal agent prescription.”

    Altman also urged other Pennsylvanians who have experienced similar issues to file a complaint with the department.

    Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes covers the governor and Pennsylvania's agencies. Before joining the Capital-Star, she was the state capitol reporter for Billy Penn and The Incline, and a 2018 corps member for Report for America. She was previously managing editor of Washington City Paper, editor-in-chief of DCist, and a national blogger for The Washington Post.

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