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Pennsylvania governor declares disaster emergency over opioid and heroin epidemic

Governor Tom Wolf has declared disaster emergency in Pennsylvania over opioid and heroin epidemic in the state. The declaration was made on Jan.10, 2018, when he also temporarily waived regulations “that create barriers to treatment and prevention, prevent first responders and others from saving lives, and reduce efficiency of our response.” In Pennsylvania, this is the first time that an emergency has been declared over a man-made situation as till now, an emergency situation was declared at the time of natural calamities only.

Thousands of Pennsylvanians succumb to the epidemic every year which punctures the state’s financial resources as the first responders run for overdose calls across the state. In 2016, nearly 238 people were killed in Lehigh Valley and another 4,362 died in other parts. In 2017, 169 people died in Lehigh County and 91 in Northampton County. The declaration has been made to hasten recovery endeavors sans any legislative approval. Wolf has waived off almost 13 protocols to direct more resources for combating drug addiction.

Details of disaster management plan

Wolf’s disaster planning commences with an Opioid Operational Command Center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency for an improved synchronization between nine state agencies, including departments of health, state police, drug and alcohol, aging, human services, and labor and industry. Till date, the access to the state’s prescription drug monitoring databases rested with the state department, health department, attorney general’s office and private medical practitioners. However, now even the agencies operating from the command center can access this data. Lehigh County’s Drug & Alcohol assistant administrator Layne Turner applauded the move and said that that “It does make a difference when agencies are working together, and the further upstream you go, to the state level in this situation, the more you learn and the easier it is for everyone to do their job.” Earlier, cases of nonfatal overdoses and of infants screened with opioid dependence were not reported unless parents were found to be poor or a death was involved but now under the declaration, such statistics will be reported.

Wolf has also allowed the first responders to leave addiction antidote naloxone at the residence of families who report an overdose. Additionally, the pharmacists would be allowed to store abundant stock of the anti-overdose drug, more than permitted by the law. Wolf has also waived the face-to-face requirement for physicians before starting an addiction treatment. Even the hospitals would no longer need licenses for starting the new treatment programs. The requirement for a duplicate birth certificate for the homeless or poor drug users in getting addiction treatment has also been removed.

In addition, the government has tightened regulation of fentanyl derivatives to match the standards. The declaration has a window period of 90 days, but it can be extended as the government knows that it would take long to manage the problem. However, it prohibits state officials from creating new regulations that might need public input or new laws, which require approval from the Republicans.

The declaration has received a positive response from the public and state officials as they feel that the centralized communication seems to be “a step in the right direction” by addressing the “real barriers” that will “improve the problem” to a certain extent.

Seeking help for drug addiction

Opioids claimed more than 33,000 lives in 2015 across the country and most of them involved a prescription opioid. Addiction to opioids can cause short-term and long-term physical and psychological changes. What begins as a means to cure pain can soon become a habit, and before one realizes, leaves a negative impact. Therefore, it is important to seek timely intervention from a good rehab center which can aid in recovery through an integrated methodology.

If you know someone who is abusing any drug or a prescription painkiller, help them by connecting them to the 24/7 Recovery Helpline experts. They can assist you or your loved one in finding the best drug addiction help online. You can also call our 24/7 helpline (855) 441-4405 or chat online with a representative to know more.

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