It’s been more than two years since Governor Tom Wolf signed the first 90-day disaster declaration to empower state agencies and partners to collectively battle the opioid epidemic.
Since that date, the declaration has been renewed 10 times, most recently on May 22. If not for the focused, dedicated efforts of the members of Gov. Wolf’s Opioid Command Center, established through the disaster declaration, the recent pandemic might have stalled efforts to combat the opioid crisis, but today, the Opioid Command Center released its strategic plan, highlighting accomplishments to date and providing a roadmap for the continued work to help those with substance use disorder.
“By leveraging the diverse strengths and skillsets brought together through the Opioid Command Center, we have been able to make great strides in saving lives and reducing negative outcomes for those suffering with a substance use disorder,” Gov. Wolf said. “I offer my thanks to everyone involved in these crucial efforts.”
This strategic plan aims to continue the successes of the Opioid Command Center as well as implement new policies to remove barriers and develop additional initiatives to address the everchanging need for support and resources. Stakeholders were consulted throughout the process of developing the plan to understand the unique challenges facing communities in Pennsylvania and plan developers examined data on a regular basis to monitor effectiveness and target areas of need.
While opioids remain a large public health and safety threat, much of the feedback indicated a need to include other substances that are commonly misused, so the scope of the Opioid Command Center has been expanded beyond opioids to encompass other urgent emerging trends, such as the use of stimulants and polysubstances, and other concerns.
The plan, available here, includes five goal areas: prevention, rescue, treatment, recovery and sustainability.
Prevention involves reducing the risk of substance misuse through education and limiting the availability of addictive substances, as well as continuing efforts to reduce the stigma of the disorder as a disease not a moral failing.
Rescue efforts are defined as establishing sustainable methods to provide life-saving measures and increase access to harm-reduction services.
Treatment means promoting access and reducing barriers for individuals, and supporting the professionals who treat those with a substance use disorder.
Recovery involves promoting supportive services for individuals in recovery. And sustainability includes the work to implement long-lasting policies and regulations to support the other four goals of prevention, rescue, treatment and recovery efforts.
“Even amidst a national pandemic, the opioid crisis has continued, and in some ways become more of a challenge,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Our commitment to addressing the opioid crisis remains steadfast, and to assist those with the disease of addiction. We want those affected to know that help is available, treatment works, and recovery is possible.”
“As the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, our primary goal is to ensure all Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to live healthy, substance-free lives,” said DDAP Secretary Jen Smith. “Through the development of the Command Center, Governor Wolf has provided critical staff and resources to help support our goal in the midst of the opioid epidemic. This roadmap will be an invaluable asset as we continue to navigate the epidemic and the rise of stimulant usage.”