Hershey, PA. The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) and the Department of Health (DOH) joined the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association at Hershey Pharmacy to discuss updates to the Naloxone Standing Order and encourage pharmacies to keep a variety of naloxone formulations on hand for the public. December 12, 2022 (Commonwealth Media Service photo).
State lawmakers and officials joined addiction specialists on Friday to discuss substance use disorder prevention and treatment efforts in Pennsylvania.
The virtual roundtable ”to share their personal stories and discuss how their agencies’ efforts are making an impact” included state Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana; state Sen. Art Haywood, D-Montgomery; U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District; Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Secretary Jen Smith; and Dr. Bernard James Costello, associate vice chancellor for Health Science Integration at the University of Pittsburgh.
Struzzi and Dean found some common ground during the roundtable discussion, sharing how addiction has personally affected them and their families. Dean, whose son, Harry, celebrated 10 years in recovery in October, said she empathized with Struzzi, who lost a brother to an overdose in 2014, and said he worries about what his three teenage sons are exposed to.
“We have to talk about giving people hope,” Struzzi said.
Struzzi added that while Pennsylvania has made strides in its efforts to address the opioid crisis and substance use disorder, “we have a lot of work to continue to do.”
“We, as elected officials, need to do everything we can,” Struzzi said.
Smith said the commonwealth is “pretty far ahead of the game” in its efforts to distribute funds from its share of national opioid settlements compared to other states.
Smith said that counties have already received one disbursement from the settlements, with another expected in coming weeks.
Haywood, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said he is “optimistic” that the settlement funds will increase the availability of resources and services across the commonwealth.
He said more could be done if state lawmakers would consider dipping into Pennsylvania’s budget surplus.
“Our core challenge is getting the service to individuals, and that means we gotta pay for them,” Haywood said, adding that the surplus funds could be spent expanding counseling services, supporting recovery homes, and providing more resources for mental health treatment.
Costello, who works directly with students and other health care professionals, said that he is “thrilled” by the opioid settlement funds, and how they could be used to continue to educate medical students and care providers about moving away from an opioid-first approach to a non-narcotics first approach to pain management.
“Culture change is really hard,” Costello said, especially in health care.
But Costello said he is optimistic that change is continuing to happen in the healthcare field and among its students.
“Once they recognized it worked, then it stuck,” Costello said of the non-naroctic approach.
Discussing what attendees can do to help those affected by addiction, the opioid crisis, and substance use disorder, Struzzi urged others to “be more accepting,” and talk to people who are in recovery to better understand what addiction is.
Dean said people who have been affected by addiction and substance use disorder can support others by speaking about their experience and helping to reduce the stigma around addiction.
Speaking of her experiences with her son, Dean said, “I feel like I have a chance to tell a story of hope.”
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