The Lead

Overdose deaths down, Wolf says, renewing Pa.’s opioid disaster declaration for the 8th time

By: - December 3, 2019 12:39 pm

Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday renewed Pennsylvania’s opioid disaster declaration, giving the state more leeway to confront the ongoing public health crisis.

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

  • Distributed nearly 6,800 doses of naloxone free to members of the public through naloxone distribution days;
  • Assisted thousands of individuals affected by the closures of doctor’s offices through the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program’s Patient Advocacy Program;
  • Continued conversations with numerous stakeholders and partners about the growing trend of stimulant use;
  • Added new data to the opioid data dashboard highlighting how the opioid crisis has increased the spread of infectious diseases and hospitalization for serious medical conditions, such as endocarditis, cellulitis and abscesses;
  • Awarded $3.4 million in federal grants to support services of pregnant and postpartum women with opioid use disorder;
  • Hosted MAT summits across the state to encourage and provide support to those treating individuals with the disease of addiction;
  • Partnered with the Independence Blue Cross Foundation to bring the “Someone You Know” public health awareness campaign to Pennsylvania. The display shares the stories of the 20 campaign ambassadors who share their personal experiences with opioid use disorder;
  • Hosted the first Opioid Summit, bringing together professionals, community members, families and others impacted by the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania;
  • Answered nearly 30,000 calls to the Get Help Now hotline to help get someone into treatment or for general assistance; and
  • Awarded $2.1 million in general grants to assist community recovery projects for individuals with substance use disorder.

In a statement, the administration said the latest renewal is “a reminder that the collaborative efforts put forth by a large and diverse group of state agencies, third-party organizations and stakeholders is having a positive effect on the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania.”

New data shows Pa. doctors are writing far fewer opioid prescriptions | The Numbers Racket

Pennsylvania’s rate of opioid prescriptions is now below the federal average and from 2017 to 2018 – the most recent data available – overdose deaths declined by 18 percent, the administration said.

Despite opposition from physicians, Wolf last week signed a new law that further tightens prescribing requirements.

Based on legislation, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, people seeking treatment for chronic pain will now have to enter written agreements with their doctors before they can receive opioid prescriptions.

These “opioid treatment agreements” will require patients to say they understand the risks of highly addictive opioid drugs and consent to periodic drug testing to prove they aren’t misusing them.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.