Harrisburg, PA — Governor Tom Wolf today announced the renewal of his 90-day opioid disaster declaration, which was introduced in January and set to expire on April 10. The renewal allows for the 13 initiatives introduced in the past 90 days to continue without interruption and for the introduction of new initiatives to help those suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD).
“We have made real progress during the disaster declaration to stem the tide of this epidemic and provide better resources and coordination for those on the front lines,” Gov. Wolf said. “But it is critical that we keep building on our efforts at prevention, rescue, and treatment. I am extending the disaster declaration for another 90 days to ensure that my administration and local partners can continue to use every tool available to them to help people and communities in need.”
The governor highlighted progress on several initiatives introduced over the past 90 days:
- Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed a naloxone leave-behind standing order. Several local agencies, including the City of Pittsburgh EMS, Fayette County EMS, and the Bucks Country Emergency Health Services Department are already participating in the leave behind program.
- Expanded access to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to other commonwealth departments for clinical decision-making purposes. Numerous local and state departments have already gained access to the database, and neighboring states are now connected to Pennsylvania’s PDMP.
- Waived fees for birth certificates for individuals with opioid use disorders, allowing them faster access to treatment and benefits. To date, more than 80 birth certificates have been expedited through this process to help get people into treatment faster.
- Added non-fatal overdoses and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) as reportable conditions. More than 60 percent of hospitals and birthing centers in the state are now reporting cases of NAS.
- Waived annual licensing requirements for high-performing drug and alcohol treatment facilities and have already seen over 50 percent of eligible facilities apply for and receive two-year licenses, ensuring continued, high-quality treatment for OUD sufferers.
Another major initiative was the creation of the Opioid Data Dashboard to help the public gain access to information about what resources are available locally, and where those resources need to be deployed. The dashboard can be viewed here.
“Extending this declaration will allow us to continue our efforts to break down silos and enhance collaboration across state government. Throughout the next 90 days, we will work to expand our efforts to include additional state agencies and commissions as necessary, so that we can direct our help to more communities across the commonwealth.”
When Gov. Wolf signed both the original and renewal disaster declarations, a public health emergency could not be declared. Today, the governor was joined by Senator Jay Costa to announce legislation to empower the Secretary of Health to declare a public health emergency, creating a more streamlined vehicle for deploying resources specific to that emergency – opioids or another health crisis.
“Senate Bill 1001 would create the designation of a public health emergency declaration, which empowers the Department of Health to waive regulations, create new temporary regulations, publish notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin for tracking and treating a disease, illness, or event, and allow public workers to provide treatment to control the emergency,” Senator Costa said. “We need more tools to beat back the addiction crisis sweeping Pennsylvania, and I’m hopeful that a public health emergency designation will help the administration cut red tape and find creative solutions.”
“I am pleased with our progress under the disaster declaration, but there is much more work to be done,” Gov. Wolf said. “I look forward to seeing more results and I thank Sens. Costa and Vulakovich, and the General Assembly for their efforts to address this epidemic from the legislative side as we continue with an all-hands-on-deck approach to ending this crisis.”
More information on the Wolf Administration’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and how people suffering from this disease can get help is here.