Pennsylvania issues disaster declaration over opioid crisis

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"I commend Gov. Wolf for issuing a Statewide Disaster Declaration for the heroin and opioid abuse crisis". But Butler, with 35 fatal overdoses in the city limits previous year, was by far municipality with the most opioid-related deaths. "We look forward to working with the General Assembly and administration on meaningful reforms that serve our residents and families, as well as guide the future health of our communities".

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey's office put out a statement stressing efforts taken by Congress and the president to tackle the problem.

"I am taking this step to protect Pennsylvanians from this looming public health crisis, and I am using every tool at my disposal to get those suffering from substance use disorders into treatment, save more lives, and improve response coordination", Wolf said.

Last year, Philadelphia began implementing recommendations from Mayor Jim Kenney's Heroin Task Force, including increasing access to medicine-assisted treatment and court diversion programs.

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"For example, the Pennsylvania State Police and potentially the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, all state agencies that may have some role and capability to address this", said Rick Flinn, director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

- Allow emergency responders to leave behind the overdose antidote naloxone when responding to a call for help and the patient declines transportation to a hospital.

Jennifer Smith, secretary of the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, said she'll be able to quickly say yes to removing requirements set on the state's 800 treatment providers.

It registered 36.5 overdose deaths per 100,000 people, the fourth-highest in the United States.

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It's the first time a disaster emergency has been declared for a public health crisis in the commonwealth.

"These stories are horrific", Wolf said. "As the devastating effects of this epidemic continue to ravage communities in Pennsylvania, today's declaration sends a clear message that more work remains to be done".

He added that the federal government could do more to help. "I have introduced legislation that would invest $45 billion in programs that combat opioid addiction and provide treatment for those who need it". "Congressional Republicans should give sustained focus to this problem and take up my legislation", Casey said.

"Our arrests of medical personnel and others for illegally diverting prescription drugs are up 72 percent", he said.

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Yoder said Wolf's announcement "many opportunities for improvement" in the methods for dealing with drug-use and overdose issues. "The vast majority of them were from fentanyl", said Cook.

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