McCarter: Escalating opioid crisis must be dealt with

HARRISBURG, Sept. 28 – State Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery, issued the following statement after Gov. Tom Wolf addressed a joint session of the General Assembly on Pennsylvania’s opioid epidemic:

"We are in the grip of an escalating crisis in Pennsylvania. Last year, nearly 3,400 drug-related overdose deaths were reported in the Commonwealth—an increase of nearly 25 percent from just the previous year. Heroin and opioid addiction and overdose are now the leading cause of accidental death in Pennsylvania, surpassing even motor vehicle accidents.

"In Montgomery County, where I live, 16 people overdose for every 100,000 in the county. In neighboring Philadelphia County, just blocks away from my home and district office, that rate is nearly tripled at 46 overdoses per 100,000 people.

"The numbers are staggering—and they’re increasing. But they’re just numbers. And numbers can’t communicate the wealth of human tragedy encompassed within them. This is not an urban or rural problem, but a Pennsylvania problem. We must come together to address this plague and arrest its spread.

"House Bill 2345 proposes establishing a task force on the opioid abuse epidemic’s impact on infants and children. The goal is to stem the rise of substance-exposed infants, to improve outcomes for pregnant women and mothers struggling with addiction recovery, and to improve the welfare of substance-exposed infants and children at risk of abuse and neglect at the hands of drug-using parents.

"House Bill 1698, which sailed through this body and passed almost unanimously, would require health insurers that cover an opioid painkiller to also cover abuse-deterrent painkillers at the same time.

"A raft of other very worthy bills are in the works. We can and must continue to address this crisis legislatively and we must do it as a united, bipartisan front. This problem, literally, cannot wait.

"I ask my fellow colleagues to join the governor in his efforts to address this grave concern. For the sake of all Pennsylvanians, we must work quickly, effectively and together."