Gov. Wolf issues disaster declaration against heroin and opioid addiction

Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania saw a 44 percent increase in opioid-related deaths from 2015 to 2016, with 4,600 fatal overdoses in 2016.

Officials say, it allows the state to override a lot of existing regulations to address the crisis.

"While we have made progress in combating the heroin and opioid abuse crisis and drastically expanded Pennsylvania's response, we are still losing far too many Pennsylvanians", Wolf said in a news release.

Jennifer Smith, the acting secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, said the governor's order will allow the state to temporarily freeze regulations to allow people to get into treatment more quickly.

The declaration established an Opioid Command Center to be located within the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

The declaration was accompanied by a number of steps, including allowing emergency responders to leave behind the overdose antidote naloxone when responding to a call for help and the patient declines transportation to a hospital.

Waiving annual licensing requirements for high-performing drug and alcohol treatment facilities. This declaration will bring additional resources to bear on this horrific public health emergency that has ripped apart far too many families.

That's up from 117 people who died from overdoses in 2016 and 84 overdose deaths in 2015.

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"We know that this crisis does not discriminate", Wolf said.

He added that the federal government could do more to help.

Drug treatment facilities are on the front line of the opioid epidemic.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro applauded the measure, calling opioid addiction "the number 1 public health and public safety crisis facing our Commonwealth".

Expanding access to Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

Yoder also chairs the Lancaster County Joining Forces Coalition, a cooperative effort among groups representing health care, law enforcement, treatment and awareness efforts in the region. "I thank Governor Wolf for his leadership and partnership as we work together every day to save Pennsylvanians' lives".

Lawmakers intend to chime in with their own ideas about how to continue fighting the crisis, said state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks County, and state Rep. Matt Baker, R-Bradford County, in a joint statement.

"Our role is really focused in on doing the things we normally do in any disaster, whether it's gathering information from a situation awareness perspective, working with state agencies identifying problems, and working with them on what they have, the ability to provide the resources to solve those problems", said Rick Flinn, director of PEMA.

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