Tuesday, 16 January, 2018

Gov. Wolf declares opioid epidemic a public health emergency

Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf
Delores Daniels | 11 January, 2018, 21:10

In Lancaster County, 165 people died from drug overdoses a year ago - majority using prescription painkillers, heroin or fentanyl, according to county coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni. The state's rate of drug overdoses has been more than twice the national average, and preliminary data indicates the number of overdose deaths rose again a year ago.

It registered 36.5 overdose deaths per 100,000 people, the fourth-highest in the United States. With the governor's order, the state will waive that requirement so that other health care professionals can give the go-ahead to get people into drug treatment as soon as possible. Officials have also been mulling establishing the nation's first safe-injection site, where users could take drugs in a monitored environment.

On Wednesday Wolf said early numbers indicate that 5,260 Pennsylvanians died of drug overdoses in 2017. The certificates are often required as proof of residency for insurance and treatment programs and can be a surprising barrier to getting into treatment. "The vast majority of them were from fentanyl", said Cook.

See NBC10's national award-winning special report on the opioid crisis, Generation Addicted, right now by tapping here.

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- Allow emergency responders to leave behind the overdose antidote naloxone when responding to a call for help and the patient declines transportation to a hospital.

Pharmacists will be asked to provide the overdose reversal drug widely, likely for free or at a reduced price.

The declaration will establish a new group comprised of heads of the state's health, emergency, and law enforcement departments.

"The Office of Attorney General arrests on average more than four drug dealers a day", Shapiro said in a statement. 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.

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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.

"The opioid and heroin crisis has rightfully drawn bipartisan attention in Congress and all levels of government, with President Trump having already taken the extraordinary step of declaring a nationwide public health emergency". Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, South Carolina and Virginia have previously made similar declarations.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, said the opioid problem was "particularly acute" in his city, and praised Wolf's declaration.

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