January 22, 2018

In a 1st, Pennsylvania Declares Opioid Crisis a Disaster

12 January 2018, 11:53 | Taylor George

NBC10 Exclusive Generation Addicted TV Special

NBC10 Exclusive Generation Addicted TV Special

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

At a Capitol press conference, Wolf outlined many actions that would occur in association with the declaration, including the opening of an opioid operations command center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

Mr. Wolf will reportedly announce the declaration during a Wednesday press conference at 2:00 p.m. EST, an unnamed source close to the governor told Penn Live.

"Just as we are not going to simply arrest our way out of this problem - and absolutely need outreach, prevention, and enhanced treatment - we can not just simply treat our way out of it either", he said.

Lawmakers intend to chime in with their own ideas about how to continue fighting the crisis, said state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks County, and state Rep. Matt Baker, R-Bradford County, in a joint statement.

Wernersville, Wolf said, has seen a large amount of drug use and overdoses. These steps are in addition to earlier actions by the governor in launching the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, providing funding to implement Centers of Excellence for treatment, and providing law enforcement and first responders with naloxone. Moreover, more recent analysis shows that Pennsylvania's rate of increase in overdose deaths is one of the very highest in the country, even as many other states are seeing drops or plateaus. The certificates are often required as proof of residency for insurance and treatment programs and can be a surprising barrier to getting into treatment.

Fees to have a duplicate birth certificate produced will be waived.

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"Hopefully with this emergency declaration, we're able to smooth things out so we can get people into treatment when they're ready, which is the important thing", said Dr. Brian Work, an internist at Penn Medicine who volunteers at the addiction clinic Prevention Point Philadelphia.

States also have put an emphasis on law enforcement, as the crisis shifts from abuse of legally prescribed drugs to illicit opioids such as heroin and unprescribed fentanyl, Stamp said.

Adding overdose and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome as reportable conditions to increase data collection.

- Allow emergency responders to leave behind the overdose antidote naloxone when responding to a call for help and the patient declines transportation to a hospital.

Wolf has made the fight against the opioid crisis a major area of focus for his administration.

The move is appropriate, though, considering the seriousness of the problem, "the worst public health crisis we've faced" in a generation, she said.

Treatment is vital, she said, but the state also could assist with school programs to prevent students from becoming addicts in the first place. Still, Wolf and others acknowledged the disaster declaration is no "silver bullet" that will solve the crisis. Officials said that in the past three years or so, police in Pennsylvania have revived people about 5,700 times using naloxone.

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