Accidental Deaths In PA Led By Opioid Overdoses, Governor, Officials Continue to Take Action
According to an examination of federal data by the National Safety Council (NSC), there were nearly 1,100 accidental deaths in Pennsylvania in 2016, a rise of 15% from 2015. More than three-quarters (78%) of those deaths were due to opioid overdoses.
Nearly one month after Gov. Tom Wolf declared the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania a disaster emergency, the new Opioid Operations Command Center is operational, and the administration is aggressively pursuing new legislation.
Ray Barishansky, deputy secretary for health planning and assessment for the state Department of Health, from last week’s press conference:
“A lot of different agencies had a lot of different initiatives going on,” but now they are “under one roof.”
He continued to say that more than a dozen agencies are now in daily communication, informing healthcare providers how to diagnose and report neonatal abstinence syndrome and working on improving reporting of overdoses.
He further stated that the state is seeking “a much more all-encompassing, comprehensive picture regarding what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”
He said, “To all Pennsylvania families suffering from this disease, please know: Treatment works, recovery is possible, and we must continue to have hope for our families, hope for our communities and hope for our commonwealth.”
Also, officials say that 1-800-662-HELP (4357), a hotline that connects callers to rehab facilities, is now receiving more than 300 calls each week. Additionally, medics have begun to leave doses of naloxone, the anti-opioid overdose drug at the residence of people who have suffered from overdose but also declined hospital transportation.
The new emergency declaration also makes it easier for drug users to get treatment and for rehab facilities and hospitals to provide addiction-related services.
Gov. Wolf said the new legislation would:
- Limit opioid prescriptions to one week of medication in many circumstances
- Develop a procedure for ordering a person to be assessed and treated for a drug problem
- Permit home health and hospice personnel to dispose of leftover prescription medication after a patient passes
- Require electronic prescribing of most drugs
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology