Governor Tom Wolf signed the 15th renewal of his January 2018 opioid disaster declaration to help the state fight the opioid and heroin epidemic. This opioid disaster declaration will last 21-days or until the General Assembly takes action to extend the declaration by August 26.
On July 30, Governor Wolf sent a letter to the General Assembly stating his intent to renew the declaration for the 15th time and asking their leaders to consider returning to Harrisburg to extend the disaster declaration to allow for a renewal of collective efforts around the opioid crisis. The letter detailed the progress made under the opioid disaster declaration and noted those remaining programs that would be impacted by an expiration of the declaration, in particular information shared with other state agencies through the administration’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
“As we see a spike in overdoses throughout the commonwealth, there has never been a more important time to concentrate our efforts in helping individuals with substance use disorder, especially opioid use disorder,” said Gov. Wolf. “This ongoing public health crisis has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It takes coordination from staff and resources to support and sustain our response across Pennsylvania.”
The preliminary numbers show there have been 5,063 drug overdose deaths reported for 2020 through July 21, 2021. In comparison, Pennsylvania saw 4,458 drug overdose deaths in 2019. The update reveals that 2020 ranks second to 2017, in which there were 5,403 overdose deaths, the most overdose deaths in a single year since the opioid epidemic began. Additional overdose death reports from 2020 are expected to trickle in over the next couple of months.
“Each of these numbers represent our family members, loved ones, and neighbors,” said Gov. Wolf. “They deserve every effort to ensure access to quality treatment and recovery supports to give them the best opportunity to have sustained recovery from substance use disorder.”
Efforts over the past several years, working with state agencies, local, regional, and federal officials, have resulted in significant action to address the opioid crisis including:
- DOH Acting Physician General Dr. Johnson signed an updated naloxone standing order permitting community-based organizations to provide naloxone by mail.
- In September 2020, DDAP announced the launch of Life Unites Us, an anti-stigma campaign, utilizing social media platforms to spread real-life stories of individuals and their family members battling substance use disorder, live and recorded webinars detailing tools and information necessary to effectively reduce stigma to more than 350 community-based organizations focused on substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery throughout Pennsylvania, and a web-based interactive data dashboard detailing the progress of the campaign.
- The Wolf Administration called on all Pennsylvanians to carry naloxone.
- The DOH Office of Drug Surveillance and Misuse Prevention (ODSMP) has reduced opioid prescriptions by 40 percent and has virtually eliminated doctor shopping.
- Pennsylvania Coordinated Medication Assisted Treatment (PacMAT) programs are serving as part of a hub-and-spoke model to provide evidence-based treatment to people where they live. Eight PacMAT programs currently serve patients through this initiative, and over 8,000 patients have been served through this initiative.
- The First Responder Addiction and Connection to Treatment Program has equipped over 1,200 Commonwealth First Responders and Public Safety Professionals with the skills necessary to respond and fight the opioid epidemic.
- An update to the standing order signed by Acting Physician General Dr. Johnson allowed EMS to leave behind more than 5,140 doses of naloxone through December 2020.
- EMS has administered more than 51,760 doses of naloxone between January 2018 to present.
- More than 880 drug take-back boxes help Pennsylvanians properly dispose of unwanted drugs, including 180,969 pounds that were collected and destroyed in 2020.
- Since 2016, more than 76,000 Pennsylvanians have utilized Pennsylvania’s Get Help Now hotline to find and/or access substance use treatment in their area.
For more information on Pennsylvania’s response to the opioid crisis visit www.pa.gov/opioids.