Governor Renews Opioid Disaster Declaration For Second Time

Gov. Wolf speaking in Middletown in 2016.
Credit: PA Internet News Service

Pennsylvania’s opioid disaster declaration will remain in effect for at least the next three months.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed a renewal for the state’s ongoing opioid disaster declaration Thursday before it expired next Wednesday, July 4. The renewal is the second since the governor first announced the declaration in January.

“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,” Wolf said. “But it is critical that we keep building on our efforts at prevention, rescue, and treatment and by extending the disaster declaration for another 90 days we ensure that my administration and local partners can continue to use every tool available to them to help people and communities in need.”

Since the disaster declaration was signed earlier this year, a naloxone leave-behind standing order was signed, the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database has been expanded, annual licensing requirements for high-performing drug and alcohol treatment facilities have been waived, fees, and speeding up access to birth certificates have been removed, non-fatal overdoses and neonatal abstinence syndrome have become reportable conditions, and the Opioid Data Dashboard to connect the public with resources locally has been created. In addition, numerous agencies operate a command center for the  disaster declaration at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency offices in central Pennsylvania.

Wolf’s office said the extension of the opioid disaster declaration means ongoing programs and initiatives can remain in progress.

While announcing the extension, Wolf signed Senate Bill 978 into law. The legislation allows hospice staff the legal authority to properly destroy unused drugs following a patient’s death. Previously, the unused pharmaceuticals were returned to the patient’s family.

“It’s my hope that by simplifying the process for disposing of unused medications following a death, we are taking another step toward taking dangerous medications out of the hands of anyone who might misuse them,” Wolf said.

The state operates a 24/7 opioid helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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