Governor Wolf declares opioid epidemic a statewide disaster emergency

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In a 1st, Pennsylvania Declares Opioid Crisis a Disaster

Preliminary figures show 5,260 Pennsylvanians died from drug overdoses in 2017.

Last year, Philadelphia began implementing recommendations from Mayor Jim Kenney's Heroin Task Force, including increasing access to medicine-assisted treatment and court diversion programs.

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

Wolf signed a statewide disaster declaration in Harrisburg.

Among the declaration's specifics are 13 key initiatives that are the culmination of a collaboration between state agencies.

-Waiving fees for birth certificates for addicts to increase access to treatment. Pennsylvania's opioid addiction rate is about twice the national average.

Under current law, coroners are required to notify the state when people die from overdoses but the state hasn't been getting reports for people who have overdoses but survive, she said.

The administration issued a fact sheet Wednesday outlining state efforts, including revamping the drug monitoring program, making naloxone available to all residents who want it, setting prescription guidelines and developing new instruction on opioids at state medical schools. It will create a coordinated response within PEMA to allow agencies to take a more unified approach to the epidemic.

"It's one of the best tools we have", Garbely said.

The emergency disaster declaration waives a state requirement that a doctor must have a face-to-face interaction with a person before admitting them into a treatment program. Cities and states across the country have been grappling with the same issue. "Anything that simplifies that process is a good thing", she said.

Wolf acknowledged that the move "isn't a silver bullet" to solve the crisis.

The emergency order technically covers 90 days. After that, if needed he could seek to extend it with another proclamation, Wolf said.

"Now, the federal government must do its part so that states don't have to deal with this alone".

The move comes after President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public emergency back in October, with White House adviser Kellyanne Conway calling it, "the crisis next door".

Pennsylvania is the eighth state to declare the opioid crisis a disaster emergency. "As providers of drug and alcohol prevention and treatment programs, counties are seeing firsthand the impact of the ever-increasing opioid epidemic, which touches lives from all backgrounds in our communities".

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro called Wolf's announcement "an important step".

The Pennsylvania physician general will reclassify fentanyl and similar drugs as Schedule 1 narcotics to limit access and open drug dealers to steep criminal penalties. Our arrests of medical personnel and others for illegally diverting prescription drugs are up 72 percent.

But as we continue losing more Pennsylvanians to overdoses, it's clear we must do more. For as little as $3, you can help us.

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