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Senators release recommendations for heroin treatment

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The Center for Rural Pennsylvania's board of directors held a press conference revealing its 11 recommendations for treatment and recovery.

Three statewide hearings were held in July and August by the center to take a closer look at heroin and opioid addiction.

The Center's findings include:

  • Recognize that addiction is a disease and those suffering from this disease should be afforded proper treatment.
  • Restore funding to counties for addiction treatment and recovery services.
  • Ensure compliance with Act 106 of 1989
  • Enforce the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.
  • Require continuing medical education credits on pain management and prescribing practices of opioids for professionals licensed to prescribe in Pennsylvania.
  • Expand the pilot program of early intervention through warm hand-off services statewide.
  • Ensure rapid enrollment of Medicaid benefits to individuals being released from incarceration to provide a continuum of care and ongoing treatment.
  • Establish a uniform manner in which overdose deaths, and specifically heroin deaths, are reported.
  • Continue to fund pilot programs for the medication-assisted treatment option naltrexone (Vivitrol).
  • Expand the use of naloxone among local Pennsylvania police departments.
  • Reinstate mandatory minimum sentencing requirements.

Senator Gene Yaw said it's an ongoing issue that can't be cured overnight.

"If someone has diabetes, you don't send them away for 30 days or 60 days and they come back fixed. Drug addiction is the same problem. It's a lifelong problem, and it is a community problem," Yaw said.

He said seven people die a day of drug overdose in Pennsylvania. In 2014, there were 2,488 heroin and drug-related deaths. In York County, there were 120.

Senator John Wozniak said, "Not everyone that's hooked on drugs is a worthless junkie. It's somebody's son, daughter, mother, cousin and everyone listening here has been affected by it."

Most heroin addicts become addicted to prescribed drugs first. They switch over to heroin because it is cheaper to get.

Dr. Nancy Falvo pf Clarion University said, "I had one individual tell me that if we gave him fifteen dollars in fifteen minutes, he could be back with three bags of heroin for us."

In April, emergency responders were permitted to carry naloxone for victims of overdose. Naloxone reverses the effects of heroin. They have reversed 453 overdoses.

Yaw said he is not sure why all police departments aren't carrying naloxone. Six counties are preparing to launch naloxone programs in police departments within the next few months.

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