Gainey calls for more funding to address Pa.’s opioid crisis

HARRISBURG, June 23 – State Rep. Ed Gainey today joined his House colleagues and Gov. Tom Wolf at a bipartisan Capitol news conference highlighting efforts that have been completed and initiatives that will take place in the coming months to address the state’s devastating opioid crisis.

Per H.R. 659, which was adopted by the House in 2014, a Task Force and Advisory Committee on Opioid Prescription Drug Proliferation was created under the direction of the Joint State Government Commission. The group issued 15 recommendations that were turned into legislation, several of which have passed the House or been undertaken through administrative action.

"As one of the four co-chairmen of the bipartisan, bicameral Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education Caucus, I want to thank members of the Task Force for their hard work on this very serious issue. I also want to thank Governor Wolf and the many representatives and senators who have held roundtable discussions across the commonwealth, allowing us to hear firsthand from those who have been affected by this health crisis," said Gainey, D-Allegheny.

"I want to thank those who have testified and told their personal stories at these meetings. By letting others know what they’ve gone through, hopefully others can see that treatment is important and necessary, and either they will reach out for help, or their family and friends will reach out to get them the help they need to move on with their lives."

Gainey said a few of the legislative efforts include a law allowing law enforcement and first-responders to administer naloxone – the life-saving drug that can reverse opioid overdoses; a bill that would require insurance plans to provide access to abuse-deterrent opioid drugs; a measure that would prohibit emergency providers from prescribing long-acting opioid painkillers in emergency rooms and place a limit on discharge prescriptions; a bill that would require doctors and pharmacists to attend opioid and addiction-related training; among many others.

Gainey said the governor’s 2016-17 budget proposal includes $34 million to create 50 Centers for Excellence across the state to treat more than 11,250 Pennsylvanians with opioid use disorder. A separate legislative budget idea suggests a $12 million increase for the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs for increased staffing and to expand capacity for detoxification and residential addiction treatment across the state.

According to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, about 2,500 Pennsylvanians died from overdoses of opioid drugs in 2014.

"We all know at least one person who has been affected by the prescription drug culture. This crisis unfortunately already has taken many Pennsylvania lives. I believe that to save more lives from being lost, these state dollars are needed right away; and I hope we can reach a bipartisan, bicameral agreement to provide them in the upcoming budget.

"We must show a commitment to lead Pennsylvania from addiction to recovery. And as the mission of the HOPE Caucus states: We must ensure that every Pennsylvanian has access to high quality prevention and treatment of the disease of drug and alcohol addiction and substance abuse," Gainey said.

Gainey said bipartisan public hearings are expected to be held throughout the summer and the legislature may take part in a fall special session to bring added attention to the opioid epidemic.