Tuesday, 23 January, 2018

Governor Wolf declares opioid epidemic a statewide disaster emergency

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at his office in Harrisburg Pa. Tuesday Jan. 2 Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at his office in Harrisburg Pa. Tuesday Jan. 2
Marlene Weaver | 14 January, 2018, 15:51

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

It's the first time a disaster emergency has been declared for a public health crisis in the commonwealth.

"I don't take this action lightly".

"While we have made progress in combating the heroin and opioid abuse crisis and drastically expanded Pennsylvania's response, we are still losing far too many Pennsylvanians", Wolf said in a news release. "And it has gone on far too long".

Wolf's decision to declare the problem a "statewide disaster" was unusual in the sense that such declarations are typically reserved for natural disasters such as blizzards and hurricanes and involve the mobilization of emergency responders and the National Guard.

The emergency order technically covers 90 days.

The opioid epidemic has hit the commonwealth hard over the past few years.

Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the nation for drug overdose deaths, according to Wolf. 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. The administration said Wagner is using the opioid crisis to advance his political agenda. It seeks to bolster the fight against heroin and opioid addiction by enhancing the state's response, increasing access to treatment and saving lives. 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.

"It's imperative that we use every tool to contain and eradicate this public health crisis", Wolf said. They're still certifying the final numbers.

Waiving separate licensing requirements for hospitals and emergency departments to expand access to drug and alcohol treatment.

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There are 13 key initiatives listed in the declaration that will include a collaboration between state agencies such as Departments of health, drug and alcohol programs and Pennsylvania State Police. This is one way we can lower the amount of people dying. New laws can not be created under the emergency.

Waiving the fee provided for in statue for birth certificates who request a good-cause waiver affected by OUD. The certificates are often required as proof of residency for insurance and treatment programs and can be a surprising barrier to getting into treatment.

"What the governor is talking about", Papademetriou said, "is the ability to leave behind with the family or loved one a naloxone kit".

Pharmacists will be asked to provide the overdose reversal drug widely, likely for free or at a reduced price.

In Lancaster County, 165 people died from drug overdoses past year - majority using prescription painkillers, heroin or fentanyl, according to county coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni. Often, health officials only have coroner data to rely on.

The declaration makes Pennsylvania the eighth state to take such a step amid a public health scourge that has devastated communities and led to a spike in overdose deaths.

The move gives the nine agencies access the state's prescription drug monitoring database to track the quantity of opioid pills doctors and others are issuing.

It also will let emergency responders to dispense the overdose antidote naloxone when responding to a call for help.

Wolf's declaration is created to increase access to treatment and save lives.

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