Harrisburg, Pa. -- Overdoses are still continuing despite the pandemic, but Gov. Tom Wolf said that Pennsylvania’s opioid disaster declaration is over as of Aug. 25, 2021, after the Republican-controlled General Assembly declined to extend it.
Wolf first signed the opioid disaster declaration in Jan. 2018 to help the commonwealth fight the deadly opioid and heroin epidemic and renewed the declaration 15 times, most recently on Aug. 4, 2021.
“When I first signed Pennsylvania’s opioid disaster declaration in 2018, it was an important tool in our fight to save lives. The disaster declaration allowed us to work together more effectively to reduce overdose deaths and help Pennsylvanians obtain treatment and pursue recovery," said Wolf.
“We made a lot of progress before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, both in putting improved systems in place to help Pennsylvanians and in reducing overdose deaths in the commonwealth by nearly twenty percent from 2017 to 2020," Wolf said.
Efforts over the past several years have resulted in significant action to address the opioid crisis including:
DOH Acting Physician General Dr. Johnson signed an updated naloxone standing order permitting community-based organizations to provide naloxone by mail.
In September 2020, DDAP announced the launch of Life Unites Us, an anti-stigma campaign, utilizing social media platforms to spread real-life stories of individuals and their family members battling substance use disorder, live and recorded webinars detailing tools and information necessary to effectively reduce stigma to more than 350 community-based organizations focused on substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery throughout Pennsylvania, and a web-based interactive data dashboard detailing the progress of the campaign.
The Wolf Administration called on all Pennsylvanians to carry naloxone.
The DOH Office of Drug Surveillance and Misuse Prevention has reduced opioid prescriptions by 40 percent and has virtually eliminated doctor shopping.
Pennsylvania Coordinated Medication Assisted Treatment (PacMAT) programs are serving as part of a hub-and-spoke model to provide evidence-based treatment to people where they live. Eight PacMAT programs currently serve patients through this initiative, and over 8,000 patients have been served through this initiative.
The First Responder Addiction and Connection to Treatment ProgramOpens In A New Window has equipped over 1,200 Commonwealth First Responders and Public Safety Professionals with the skills necessary to respond and fight the opioid epidemic.
An update to the standing order signed by Acting Physician General Dr. Johnson allowed EMS to leave behind more than 5,140 doses of naloxone through December 2020.
EMS has administered more than 51,760 doses of naloxone between January 2018 to present.
More than 880 drug take-back boxes help Pennsylvanians properly dispose of unwanted drugs, including 180,969 pounds that were collected and destroyed in 2020.
Since 2016, more than 76,000 Pennsylvanians have utilized Pennsylvania’s Get Help Now hotline to find and/or access substance use treatment in their area.
The state prison system has expanded their Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program, which is viewed as a model program for other states.
A body scanner pilot project was successful in reducing overdoses and violent crime in a number of facilities. Body scanners are in place in more than 30 locations and are currently being expanded to additional facilities.
Several agencies have worked together to collaborate on the seizure and destruction of illicit opioids across Pennsylvania.
Education and training on opioids have been provided to schools. Future plans are in place to make opioid education a standard component of school-based training.
The coordination with seven major commercial providers has expand access to naloxone and mental health care, while also working to make it more affordable.
Naloxone has been made available to first responders through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency since Nov. 2017, with more than 72,000 kits made available and more than 16,241 overdose reversals reported through the program. More than 6,600 of those saves occurred in 2019.
The utilization and creation of programs to address the needs of veterans with substance use disorders has served more than 500 veterans across the state.
Connection through various support agencies of close to 500 pregnant and postpartum women with opioid use disorder services, and their babies with evidence-based SUD treatment, specialty medical and behavioral healthcare.
Using state funding, conducted close to 80 trainings and more than 50 outreach events to approximately 13,000 student and faculty members of colleges and universities in Pennsylvania to increase awareness and understanding of opioid use and misuse, and the importance of naloxone.
Through various initiatives, whether the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) Program through the Attorney General’s Office, diversion to treatment through the Pennsylvania State Police, or efforts on the local level led by the Single County Authorities, have worked to train law enforcement officers on topics related to police diversion and help get individuals into treatment.
“Unfortunately, the isolation and disruption caused by the pandemic over the past year and half has also caused a heartbreaking increase in substance use disorder and overdose deaths. Now more than ever, it is essential that we continue our efforts to fight stigma, increase access to treatment and reduce deaths related to substance use disorder. That’s why I asked the General Assembly to return to Harrisburg in August to renew this disaster declaration," Wolf added.
“The General Assembly has determined that a disaster declaration is no longer our most effective tool against the opioid epidemic and has declined to extend it. But our fight is not over. We have an obligation to support individuals desperately in need of substance use disorder services and supports. With or without a disaster declaration, this will remain a top priority of my administration," comments from the governor said.