State anti-drug official praises Obama's proposal to increase funding

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Feb 4, 2016 4:45 AM


(Harrisburg) -- President Obama recently proposed spending more than $1 billion to address the nation's heroin and opioid crisis.

President Obama is proposing to spend $900 million nationwide to increase access to medication-assisted treatment, plus tens of millions more on monitoring and prevention.

Gary Tennis, secretary of the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, is excited about the proposal, but also has one small issue.

MAT, as its known, uses drugs like methadone to slowly move a person off of heroin, but some have argued it's just replacing one drug with another narcotic.

Tennis says he would have proposed more money for long-term residential rehab too, "which is also proven effective for people with heroin and opioid addiction. I also would've wanted to maybe put a little more resources into prevention."

"But I am not going to quibble. We can use this. I'm happy to have it. As you've heard me say over and over, I believe that we need to expand all modalities of treatment right now."

Tennis says he's talked with Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, about the issue, and is confident he'll help increase funding.

And he says with the issue affecting nearly every community in the country, it's hard to imagine a lawmaker voting against the proposal.

There's no exact count, but the heroin and opioid crisis killed at least 800 people in Pennsylvania in 2014.

That's the most recent year stats are available.

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