HARRISBURG, Pa. – Drug overdose deaths are increasing rapidly in the United States, and Pennsylvania is near top of the list. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows more than 63,000 drug overdose deaths nationwide in 2016, a 21 percent increase over 2015. The Keystone State had the fifth highest rate of drug fatalities, just behind Washington, D.C., with almost 38 deaths per 100,000 residents. The sharp increase in abuse of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl is a driving force behind the numbers. Jessica Hulsey Nickel, president of the Addiction Policy Forum, says the report confirms what her group is already seeing.”This is getting worse, not better, and we need more resources and tools right now, with a sense of urgency to help make sure we address it.” she states.Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation giving the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs authority to certify and regulate state funded recovery homes that assist people coping with addiction.Nickel points out that, when dealing with addiction, early intervention works best.”You don’t wait for rock bottom,” she stresses. “That’s like waiting for Stage 4 to treat cancer. We need to start working with our health care systems and our families to get that assistance and that intervention as soon as possible.”The Addiction Policy Forum has proposed an eight-point plan developed by experts and families affected by addiction.Nickel emphasizes that addiction is a preventable and treatable disease. And with 174 Americans dying of drug related causes every day, the CDC report makes it clear that the country needs to double down on its efforts to stem the epidemic.”This is a point where we can start changing the course that we’re taking to address this better, and really drive home the need for better outcomes for our patients,” she states.