Governor Wolf declares opioid epidemic a statewide disaster emergency

Thursday, 11 Jan, 2018

"We know that this crisis does not discriminate", Wolf said.

"We absolutely support this declaration as it will most likely result in streamlining procedures and protocols that will expedite treatment for individuals including medication-assisted therapy", said Barbara Gorrell, administrator of Drug & Alcohol for Columbia, Montour, Snyder and Union counties.

Pennsylvania's drug death rate is the fourth highest in the country.

"Just calling a disaster a disaster is drawing attention to the problem, and that in itself is a real value", Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said in an interview.

"They need to learn the risks", she said. "That gives you a sense of the magnitude of the crisis".

Disaster emergency declarations are normally issued after severe weather emergencies.

Bethlehem police officers and paramedics are already armed with naloxone, but Wenrich said her staff is now training firefighters to use naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses.

"I commend Gov. Wolf for issuing a Statewide Disaster Declaration for the heroin and opioid abuse crisis. We can not afford to wait".

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

Among the declaration's specifics are 13 key initiatives that are the culmination of a collaboration between state agencies. In that way, the person could be contacted later and encouraged to get into treatment, Farley said. "That will help", said Jayme Hendricks, division director of outpatient services for Gaudenzia, a treatment provider.

Ramping up the state's toll-free addiction hotline, 1-800-622-HELP, is a big one, she said.

The opioid epidemic has hit the commonwealth hard over the past few years. We would have preferred to have been included before this, but we're hopeful to be included now.

"I applaud the governor's proclamation", he said.

The emergency declaration puts Pennsylvania in line with other states that have announced similar measures including Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts and Virginia.

Delaware County Council Chairman John McBlain said while he hadn't yet seen the detail of Wolf's announcement, he welcomed it.

Wolf says it's time for more extreme action. "It is a public health emergency".

Diamantoni said Wednesday there have been some local deaths from overdoses this year, although the number was not immediately available.

"It is not a criminal problem, it is a disease", he said.

"I think it can be helpful at the state level", he said. The state launched a prescription drug monitoring program to cut down on doctor shopping and identify pill mills. Overdoses and neonatal abstinence syndrome are now reportable conditions to the health department, giving them better data on where non-fatal overdoses are taking place to send resources.

Procurement rules for emergency purchases would be waived.

The existing naloxone standing order and funding for naloxone to first responders has allowed for more than 5,000 lives to be saved, the release says.

Synthetic drugs - like carfentanil - that are derived from fentanyl would be rescheduled to more align with the DEA schedule of narcotics.