Budget showdown holds drug program hostage: ‘The longer we wait the more people are dying’

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Pennsylvania is in its second month without a budget and drug counselors say the budget showdown is holding up a solution to a major health crisis in the state.

Both Democrats and Republicans support a state database to monitor prescription drug use. Experts say it would stop addicts from "doctor shopping" to get more drugs. The addiction often leads to heroin use, which is contributing to a rising epidemic of overdoses in the state.

The legislation for the database passed last year, but $2 million in funding is tied up in the state budget.

Drug counselor Carlos Ramos works with drug offenders at the Daystar Center for Spiritual Recovery in Harrisburg.

"We need to come and sit down, and let's look at whats beneficial for the people that are dying," says Ramos. "The longer we wait and fight whether yes or no, the more people are dying out there."

Republicans say the funding was included in the budget that passed the House and Senate June 30, which the Governor vetoed.

"This is something we agree on, and yet by the governor's action we're not getting the money where it needs to be to help people with this horrible drug abuse problem in Pennsylvania," says Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland).

Democrats say that budget would've increased the deficit and didn't include enough education funding. Governor Wolf's Secretary of Health, Dr. Karen Murphy, says her department is continuing work on the program even without the funding.

"It requires a significant amount of work and we have continued that work in preparation for securing the actual software and implementing the program," says Murphy.

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