The fight against opioid and heroin addiction

In 2015, more than 3,500 Pennsylvanians died from a drug overdose. Heroin and opioid overdose are the leading cause of accidental death in Pennsylvania, killing more individuals each year than motor vehicle accidents -- 10 people every day.

House Democrats and Gov. Tom Wolf made a commitment to fight - with funding, support and infrastructure - the epidemic that this deadly form of addiction has become. The state Department of Health is implementing 45 new Centers of Excellence, which are addiction treatment centers that will serve approximately 4,500 Medicaid recipients.

Thanks to funding in the 2016-17 state budget that House Democrats fought for, The Centers of Excellence will be central, efficient hubs around which treatment revolves. These centers will have navigators to assist people with opioid-related substance use disorders though the medical system, and ensure they receive behavioral and physical health care, as well as any evidence-based medication-assisted treatment needed.

Gov. Wolf's proposed 2017-18 budget seeks an additional $10 million to make anti-overdose medicine more accessible, and more than $4 million in new money to expand specialty drug courts and divert more people to treatment and recovery.

This epidemic crosses all social, geographic and political lines. A recent study by the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association reports that seven Pennsylvanians die every day due to a heroin or prescription opioid overdose.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll published in early May found that 44 percent of Americans personally know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers. That same poll also found that the majority of people believe that state governments aren’t doing enough to fight the substance abuse epidemic.

House Democrats aim to fix that.  

In addition to holding more public hearings to gather information and insight on fighting the epidemic, House Democrats are advocating a number of measures that  include:

  • Requiring insurance coverage for abuse-deterrent opioids.
  • Continuing education for doctors and pharmacists related to opioid prescribing and dispensing and pain management. (S.B. 1202 signed into law as Act 124 of 2016)
  • Seven-day limitation on opioid prescriptions in emergency rooms and urgent care centers. (H.B. 1699 signed into law as Act 122 of 2016)
  • Voluntary non opioid directives.
  • Seven-day limitation on opioid prescriptions for minors. (S.B. 1367 signed into law as Act 125 of 2016)
  • Medical school curriculum requirements related to opioid and pain management. (S.B. 1368 signed into law as Act 126 of 2016)
  • Requiring prescribers and dispensers to query the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program every time a controlled substance is prescribed or dispensed. (S.B. 1202 signed into law as Act 124 of 2016)