Frankel: House approves police grant program with addiction recovery, heroin antidote included

HARRISBURG, April 12 – House Democratic Caucus Chairman Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, praised Monday’s passage of H.B. 176, the first bill in the country to establish a framework for a statewide grant program to promote police-assisted addiction recovery programs. The bill now heads to the state Senate, where Frankel hopes it will be taken up quickly.

"Individual police departments across the country and in Pennsylvania are looking for ways to help citizens into drug treatment; state government should be there to provide resources, training and guidance to help them," said Frankel, author of the grant language that was successfully amended into the bill last week.

Frankel said that while California and New Mexico have passed legislation to help police address mental health issues, H.B. 176 is the first bill aimed at helping police respond to the growing opioid epidemic.

The legislation would establish a grant program under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to assist local police departments, regional police departments and the Pennsylvania State Police. The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs would work with the PCCD in administering these programs. Grants could also be used by police departments to buy naloxone and train their officers.

Frankel’s effort would help better link law enforcement to the professionals who already operate on a county level through drug and alcohol single-county authorities. Pennsylvania has 47 authorities covering 67 counties that are designated by the state as the local resources for individuals and families seeking drug treatment. 

Frankel said this legislative initiative was inspired by a recent event at the Capitol organized by the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. The event honored law enforcement personnel from across the state who have recently saved hundreds of lives by carrying and administering naloxone, an easy-to-use antidote to heroin and legal opioid overdoses.

Frankel helped write Act 139 of 2014, which authorized these first responders and friends and family members of those at risk of overdoses to carry naloxone, and says this bill is a follow-up to that effort.

"Many police departments are now training their officers about recognizing drug overdoses and using naloxone to save lives, but we need to do more to give law enforcement the tools and training to help guide people into effective treatment," Frankel said.

Frankel added that there should be multiple ways to get a "warm handoff" into treatment and there should be "no wrong doors" for those seeking treatment. Funding for this program under H.B. 176 would come from unused funds that in the past have been used by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to fund local police efforts to prevent illegal gambling.

"This legislation would help jump-start police-assisted addiction recovery efforts in Pennsylvania and put us in a favorable position for future federal funding if Congress finally passes and funds increased efforts against heroin and opioid addiction," Frankel said.