Gov. Wolf outlines his vision to combat the opioid and heroin crisis in Pennsylvania

tom wolf

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Governor Tom Wolf addressed a joint session of the General Assembly Wednesday in the hopes of pushing through reforms that will help the state fight the growing opioid and heroin epidemic in the state.

“This disease does not have compassion or show regard for status, gender, race or borders,” Gov. Wolf told the joint session. “It affects each and every Pennsylvanian and threatens entire communities throughout our Commonwealth.”

Wolf then sat down with FOX43 to discuss the proposals he supports, starting with a stronger  prescription drug monitoring program.

“We’re just trying to make sure that the opioid part of that gets into the database so that doctors can see, ‘Oh, this is the fourth time you’re asking someone in the last three days to prescribe an opioid; maybe we ought to be talking about something a little more pointed here when it comes to substance abuse disorder,'” he said.

Among other proposals, he would also like to see a voluntary directive for people who do not want to develop an opioid abuse problem so that they can refuse opioid prescription drugs.

“In those rare cases where they are forced, being forced to do it they can say, ‘I choose not to take that particular medicine,'” he said.

Gov. Wolf says this is an issue that touches both sides of the aisle.

“You might be a Republican legislator, or you might be a Democratic legislator, but we’re all getting people coming to us and saying, ‘I’m losing loved ones,'” he said.

The following is a news release from the Governor’s Press Office:

Today, Governor Wolf addressed a Joint Session of the General Assembly to outline our collective plan to lead the nation in combating the opioid and heroin crisis facing Pennsylvania.

“We have shown that we can work together to make Pennsylvania the great place we know it can be. It is now time to do so again and give the people of Pennsylvania a reason to believe in their leaders,” said Governor Wolf. “It is up to us to tackle the opioid crisis and give Pennsylvania the prosperous, healthy, and safe future we know it deserves. I look forward to a productive session and real progress toward stopping the opioid epidemic. Let us, here in Pennsylvania, lead the nation in fighting this crisis.

“I want to thank the House and the Senate for their dedication to ensuring that those suffering from the disease of addiction are getting the treatment that they need. With ten Pennsylvanians a day being lost to this horrible epidemic, working together for quick action is more important than ever.”

In order to stem the tide of opioid abuse and make progress for those suffering from the disease of addiction and their loved ones, we must work quickly and efficiently to pass bills to send to Governor Wolf’s desk. During the governor’s address, he outlined the following priorities:

Strengthen the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program
Physicians should check the commonwealth’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program each time they prescribe opioids. Our current law only requires doctors to check the system the first time they prescribe to a patient, or if they believe a patient is suffering from the disease of addiction.

In addition, dispensers should be required to enter data into the database within 24 hours of issuing a prescription, rather than the current standard of 72 hours. Strengthening program requirements is imperative in helping doctors and pharmacists identify whether patients are doctor shopping or other doctors are overprescribing patients. State officials also need the tools to identify inappropriate prescribing and dispensing practices among health care providers to better crack down on abuse.

Improve and Increase Education
We must prepare doctors and physicians for prescribing opioids and pain management by improving medical school and continuing education curricula on opioids. This will give doctors the knowledge and best practices needed to tailor their clinical skills to identify signs of addiction and provide patients with information to avoid abuse or engage in meaningful treatment if they become addicted. We should also require schools to teach students about opioid misuse in existing drug and alcohol abuse curricula.

Limit Opioid Prescriptions to Emergency Room Patients and Minors
We should limit the number of opioids a patient can receive at emergency rooms to a seven day supply with no refills. We should put the same restriction in place for minors no matter where they get a prescription. This would not make it harder for physicians to prescribe opioids for legitimate pain. Those suffering from crippling pain need relief, and we must be careful to protect the ability of sufferers of long-term pain or victims of trauma to receive appropriate medication.

Insurance Coverage for Abuse Deterrent Opioids
Insurance companies should be required to cover abuse deterrent opioids – like they already have in Massachusetts. This will make it more difficult to abuse prescription drugs. While many people become addicted by simply swallowing pills, others crush pills to snort or smoke. Drug manufacturers are rapidly developing new technologies to prevent this kind of abuse. Deterrent measures can be important tools against intentional or unintentional abuse or overdoses.

Establish a Voluntary Directive
We should allow patients to establish a voluntary directive if they do not want to be prescribed opioids. This directive could be used by a patient to deny or refuse the administration or prescribing of an opioid drug by a practitioner.

Last year over 3,500 Pennsylvanians died from drug overdose – that is an astonishing 10 deaths a day and up from the more than 2,500 reported deaths in 2014. Substance use disorder affects people all across the commonwealth and that is why the search for effective solutions enjoys broad bi-partisan support. Together with the legislature, Governor Wolf will continue to fight to make sure Pennsylvanians have the resources we need to get our arms around this crisis.

Source: The Office of Gov. Tom Wolf