5 takeaways from Gov. Wolf's opioid disaster declaration


On Wednesday Wolf said early numbers indicate that 5,260 Pennsylvanians died of drug overdoses in 2017.

The declaration, normally used in response to natural disasters, gives various agencies and law enforcement more flexibility in their efforts against the crisis, and more resources. 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 previous year.

Starting with a new taskforce called the opioid operational command center.

"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.

To date, the 24/7 helpline, 1-800-662-HELP, has received more than 20,000 calls to connect those suffering from substance use disorder with treatment. "They are diseases. They are not a moral failing", Physician General and Acting Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said.

More than 4,600 Pennsylvanians died from drug overdoses in 2016. Preliminary data shared by Wolf shows 5,260 people died from drug overdoses in 2017 - the highest tally ever recorded and a almost 15-percent jump over the previous year.

"While we have made progress in combatting the heroin and opioid abuse crisis and drastically expanded Pennsylvania's response, we are still losing far too many Pennsylvanians", the Democrat said in a statement. It requires that overdoses and neonatal abstinence syndrome - the medical term applied to children born addicted to drugs - are added as reportable conditions and tracked by state and local entities.

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Allowing pharmacists to partner with other organizations to increase access to naloxone, an overdose-reversing drug.

- Allow for the immediate temporary rescheduling of all fentanyl derivatives to align with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration schedule while working toward permanent rescheduling.

Expanding the advanced body scanner pilot program now in place at Wernersville used on people reentering the facility.

- Expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) by waiving the regulatory provision to permit dosing at satellite facilities. Our arrests of medical personnel and others for illegally diverting prescription drugs are up 72 percent.

Waiving annual licensing requirements for high-performing drug and alcohol treatment facilities.

Fees to have a duplicate birth certificate produced will be waived. "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".