Wolf touts response to opioid crisis, says more help is coming

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | May 17, 2016 4:04 AM

Photo by Tom Downing/WITF


(Harrisburg) -- The opioid epidemic has hit every part of Pennsylvania - with increased use of powerful drugs like heroin, OxyContin, and Percocet.

Governor Tom Wolf's administration has been trying to get a handle on the next steps needed with roundtable discussions across the state.

Wolf's administration has put together a strategy to deal with the crisis - making a life-saving drug available to all, and working to teach students at Pennsylvania medical schools new pain management techniques.

But parts of the commonwealth's response have lagged behind other states.

Massachusetts - with a first-term Republican governor in Charlie Baker - put together a task force that came up with pages of recommendations by June of last year, and says about 90 percent have been acted on. It includes trainings to care for babies born dependent on opioids, adding more than 125 treatment beds, and putting together a database that shows where treatment beds are available.

In an interview with WITF, Wolf touts his work.

"Yeah, he set up his task force before we did but I think we got started before he did on on things like the standing order, the prescription," he says.

He points to Physician General Rachel Levine's standing prescription that allows all Pennsylvanians to obtain naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effect of a drug overdose.

"And what I'm doing now and what we all here in this building are doing now to focus on this opioid crisis really is building on what has been going since the early days of my administration," he adds.

Wolf says some of the effort was overshadowed by a nine-month budget impasse.

Experts at the roundtables have said Pennsylvania needs more treatment beds - and Wolf says that is one initiative his administration is committed to in the next fiscal year.

He's proposed $34 million in new funding to address the opioid crisis.

While exact, reliable numbers are hard to come by, the opioid crisis - which includes heroin, OxyContin, Percocet, and other drugs - killed hundreds of Pennsylvanians in 2014.


This story was modified to add details about work in other states, and the headline has been clarified.

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