Governor Wolf Declares Heroin and Opioid Epidemic a Statewide Disaster Emergency


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.

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.

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.

Philadelphia is home to the highest overdose numbers in the state, which city officials say may have hit 1,200 deaths a year ago.

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

Some other initiatives include increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, allowing EMS to leave behind Naloxone at a user's home, and expanding the Department of Drug and Alcohol Program's 24/7 emergency drug hotline.

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Wolf says it's time for more extreme action.

Fees to have a duplicate birth certificate produced will be waived. "The vast majority of them were from fentanyl", said Cook.

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

"For example, the Pennsylvania State Police and potentially the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, all state agencies that may have some role and capability to address this", said Rick Flinn, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. The Office of Attorney General arrests on average more than four drug dealers a day. It requires that overdoses and neonatal abstinence syndrome - the medical term applied to children born addicted to drugs - are added as reportable conditions and tracked by state and local entities.

The drug monitoring program helps identify doctors who are over-prescribing and patients who are doctor-shopping to get drugs they may not need, he said. His administration also provided funding to create treatment centers of excellence and increase access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan. Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Virginia have previously made similar declarations.

Gail Groves Scott, manager of the Substance Use Disorders Institute at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and a Lancaster Township resident, called Wolf's declaration "a disappointment to those who were hoping it would bring real change".