Local experts hope opioid declaration will turn momentum in fight against addiction

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Those who are on the front lines of fighting the opioid epidemic are hoping the declaration of a public health emergency by President Trump can help turn a corner in the work to stop drug addiction.

"In this, we see a lot of statistics and numbers, but each of those numbers is a person," said Matthew Null of Gaudenzia Addiction Treatment and Recovery. "Hopefully this will bring about less stigma and more awareness, and also for families and people to know that they're not alone."

For many people fighting addiction, a first step is looking into resources offered at the county level, and Dauphin County leaders are hoping the declaration improves access to treatment.

"The actions by the President acknowledge what we've been facing every day, and that is that this epidemic is real," said George Hartwick of the Dauphin County Board of Commissioners. "It's affecting everyone, and it affects all of our systems across Criminal Justice, Human Services, kids going into care in Children & Youth."

State leaders say the declaration is a positive first step in bringing awareness to the issue, but light on specifics on how much support the federal government will provide.

"We're concerned that it didn't talk about more funding," said Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania's acting secretary of public health and physician general. "It didn't discuss that there would be more funding coming for both prevention and for treatment."

There is agreement that there is no simple solution to this crisis, and that it will take a lot of people working together and supporting each other to treat those with addiction and prevent others from falling into the trap.

"Each person needs something unique and different," Null said. "Not everyone gets the exact same treatment, so we want to really understand that person, what are their needs, what's going on and how can we adjust that treatment specifically for them."