Gov. Wolf announces state of emergency for opioid epidemic

Gov. Wolf to make announcement of new executive action in fight against heroin and opioid epidemic

Gov. Wolf to make announcement of new executive action in fight against heroin and opioid epidemic

Dr. Rachel Levine, acting secretary of the Department of Health and physician general, said another waiver under the declaration will allow emergency medical services crews to leave behind naloxone, a medicine that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses, when they leave a situation where a person is believed likely to overdose in the future.

"I don't take this action lightly", Wolf said.

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.

"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.

Treatment professionals welcomed the governor's proclamation and the steps the administration plans to take on account of it.

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Pennsylvania suffered more than 4,600 fatal overdoses in 2016, an increase of more than one-third from the prior year.

"But as we do, we understand we also have to act, quickly and decisively to make sure those numbers don't continue to grow", said Governor Tom Wolf.

Yoder said Wolf's announcement "many opportunities for improvement" in the methods for dealing with drug-use and overdose issues.

"It is the worst public health crisis that we have faced in Pennsylvania".

The declaration frees up resources and allows Pennsylvania officials to temporarily override any rules or regulations they perceive as hampering the state's ability to address the epidemic.

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Wolf acknowledged that the move "isn't a silver bullet" to solve the crisis. On Wednesday, Wolf said the state has already made significant investments including: expanding Medicaid to ensure that drug treatment will be covered for most Pennsylvanians; establishing 45 centers around the state to expand access to treatment including medication assisted treatment; expanding access to the drug reversal drug naloxone; and creating a prescription drug monitoring program to detect patients who doctor shop for opioids and doctors who run pills mills that feed addiction.

The emergency order technically covers 90 days.

He added that the federal government could do more to help. Previously, only the Health Department, State Department, attorney general's office and private physicians could see the database. "It will open additional avenues for the state to fight back against this public health crisis." said Governor Wolf. Our arrests of medical personnel and others for illegally diverting prescription drugs are up 72 percent.

The opioid epidemic has hit the commonwealth hard over the past few years. "The vast majority of them were from fentanyl", said Cook.

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