Gov. Wolf signs 15th opioid disaster declaration


(WJET/WFXP) – Wednesday, Governor Tom Wolf signed the 15th renewal of his January 2018 opioid disaster declaration to help the state fight the opioid and heroin epidemic.

This order will last 21 days or until the General Assembly decides extend the declaration by August 26.

On July 30th, Governor Wolf sent a letter to the General Assembly stating his intent to renew the declaration and detailed the progress made so far. You can read the full letter below.

“As we see a spike in overdoses throughout the commonwealth, there has never been a more important time to concentrate our efforts in helping individuals with substance use disorder, especially opioid use disorder,” said Gov. Wolf. “This ongoing public health crisis has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It takes coordination from staff and resources to support and sustain our response across Pennsylvania.”

The preliminary numbers show there have been 5,063 drug overdose deaths reported for 2020 through July 21, 2021. In comparison, Pennsylvania saw 4,458 drug overdose deaths in 2019. The 2020 statistics are the most since 2017, when there were 5,403 overdose deaths — the most in a single year since the opioid epidemic began. Additional overdose death reports from 2020 are expected to trickle in over the next couple of months.  

“Each of these numbers represent our family members, loved ones, and neighbors,” said Gov. Wolf. “They deserve every effort to ensure access to quality treatment and recovery supports to give them the best opportunity to have sustained recovery from substance use disorder.”

The efforts of the governor, state agencies, local, regional, and federal officials, have resulted in significant action to address the opioid crisis including: 

  • DOH Acting Physician General Dr. Johnson signed an updated naloxone standing order permitting community-based organizations to provide naloxone by mail
  • In September 2020, DDAP announced the launch of Life Unites Us, an anti-stigma campaign, using social media platforms to spread real-life stories of individuals and their family members battling substance use disorder and information necessary to effectively reduce stigma throughout Pennsylvania
  • Eight Pennsylvania Coordinated Medication Assisted Treatment (PacMAT) programs have served 8,000 patients and counting
  • The Wolf Administration called on all Pennsylvanians to carry naloxone
  • The DOH Office of Drug Surveillance and Misuse Prevention (ODSMP) has reduced opioid prescriptions by 40 percent and has virtually eliminated doctor shopping 
  • The First Responder Addiction and Connection to Treatment Program has trained over 1,200 Commonwealth First Responders and Public Safety Professionals to respond and fight the opioid epidemic
  • An update to the standing order signed by Acting Physician General Dr. Johnson allowed EMS to leave behind more than 5,140 doses of naloxone through December 2020
  • EMS has administered more than 51,760 doses of naloxone between since January 2018
  • More than 880 drug take-back boxes help Pennsylvanians properly dispose of unwanted drugs, including 180,969 pounds that were collected and destroyed in 2020
  • Since 2016, more than 76,000 Pennsylvanians have used Pennsylvania’s Get Help Now hotline to find and/or access substance use treatment in their area.

For more information on Pennsylvania’s response to the opioid crisis, click HERE

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