Governor Tom Wolf signed the 12th renewal of his January 2018 opioid disaster declaration to help the state fight the then-burgeoning opioid and heroin epidemic. The declaration allows the state to loosen regulations and work outside of typical procedures to expedite aid and initiatives to help those suffering from opioid use disorder and those who work to prevent and treat this medical condition.
“We must continue to fight both the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid epidemic in our commonwealth, and I am grateful to the dedicated team of the Opioid Command Center for its commitment to fighting the opioid epidemic even among challenging circumstances,” Gov. Wolf said. “The work that is enabled by this declaration is vital to saving the lives of so many Pennsylvanians, providing education and treatment, and advancing initiatives across the state to continue to battle this epidemic. This work is no less important during COVID; we can and are fighting both the pandemic and the epidemic.”
The declaration allows for the redirection and reorganization of commonwealth resources to align programs from multiple agencies to work together to mitigate the opioid crisis, its causes and effects.
“As the commonwealth continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic during the winter months, continuing our fight against the opioid epidemic has never been more important,” said DDAP Secretary Jennifer Smith. “While social distancing and mitigation efforts are critical to stop the spread of the deadly virus, for individuals with substance use disorder community support is a critical aspect of seeking treatment and ultimately sustaining recovery. Governor Wolf’s 12th renewal of the disaster declaration shows his unwavering commitment to support individuals suffering from substance use disorder and focusing resources to support the drug and alcohol community.”
“The opioid crisis continues to affect our loved ones, our communities and our state for those with the disease of addiction,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Renewing the disaster declaration allows us to continue our efforts to ensure that we are helping those in need. Recovery works, and treatment is possible for those with this disease.”
Work to address the opioid crisis focuses on three areas: prevention, rescue and treatment. Efforts over the past several years, working with state agencies, local, regional and federal officials, have resulted in significant action to address the opioid crisis:
- Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed an updated naloxone standing order permitting community-based organizations to provide naloxone by mail.
- The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program has reduced opioid prescriptions by 47 percent and has virtually eliminated doctor shopping.
- The number of people receiving high dosages of opioids (defined as greater than 90 morphine milligram equivalents per day) has dropped 57 percent since the PDMP launched in August 2016.
- The Opioid Data Dashboard and Data Dashboard 2.0 has provided public-facing data regarding prevention, rescue and treatment.
- 11 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, with just under $26 million dedicated into the centers.
- More than 45 Centers of Excellence, administered by the Department of Human Services, provide coordinated, evidence-based treatment to people with an opioid use disorder covered by Medicaid. The COEs have treated more than 32,500 people since first launching in 2016.
- The waiver of birth certificate fees for those with opioid use disorder has helped close to 5,300 people, enabling easier entry into recovery programs.
- A standing order signed by Dr. Rachel Levine in 2018 allowed EMS to leave behind more than 2,400 doses of naloxone.
- Education has been provided to more than 7,000 prescribers through either online or face-to-face education.
- 882 drug take-back boxes help Pennsylvanians properly dispose of unwanted drugs, including 178,540 pounds of unwanted drugs in 2019. 2020 data is not yet available because of COVID.
- The Get Help Now Hotline received close to 42,622 calls, with more than half of all callers connected directly to a treatment provider.
- 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 November 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.
- EMS have administered close to 45,900 doses of naloxone and more than 10,000 doses were made available to members of the public during the state’s naloxone distribution last year.
For more information on Pennsylvania’s response to the opioid crisis visit www.pa.gov/opioids.