Package of bills to address drug overdose crisis proposed

Written by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania | Nov 23, 2015 4:07 AM

(Harrisburg) -- State House lawmakers are attempting to address the drug addiction crisis in Pennsylvania.

From prescribing guidelines to insurance coverage to medical education, a group of proposed bills hit many points.

A group of Republicans and one Democrat are offering them in the hopes they'll help reduce overdose deaths in Pennsylvania.

About 2,500 people died from drug overdoses in the state last year, but the figure excludes 13 counties that didn't report their totals.

Still, that's more than twice as many as the number killed in traffic accidents.

Republican Representative Rosemary Brown of Columbia County wants to limit opioid prescriptions for people leaving the emergency room to seven days.

"So this legislation will work towards addiction prevention and will also aid in controlling excessive opioid products from being sold on the street or ending up in the hands of someone other than the patient," says Brown.

"About two years ago, I lost my niece to a heroin overdose. That opened up the floodgates to people coming in to my district office and telling their stories about what's happening. So there's a whole lot that needs to be done to address this problem," says Republican Keith Masser.

Surveys show about 80 percent of those who end up addicted to heroin were once addicted to powerful prescription painkillers like OxyContin.

Brown's legislation stems from recommendations made by a group of doctors and state health officials.

At this point, the recommendations are only voluntary.

Meanwhile, the state is still trying to come up with a better way to track drug overdose deaths.

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