PHILADELPHIA – Gov. Tom Wolf spoke to a group at Independence Blue Cross on Tuesday to highlight the state’s progress in fighting the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic.
The remarks were part of a press event where Independence Blue Cross and the Independence Blue Cross Foundation provided an update and introduced a new initiative in their combined efforts to fight opioid abuse.
“My administration is focused on fighting the opioid abuse epidemic, and is taking real steps to combat abuse and save lives,” Wolf said.
“When I became Governor, I focused all the efforts and resources of my administration on fighting back against this epidemic and we have been successful, using every tool in the toolbox to combat this crisis.”
In the past two-and-a-half years, the Wolf Administration has taken aggressive steps to tackle the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic, including:
- Redesigned the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, the online database that allows prescribers and pharmacists to monitor who is obtaining opioids, and where and how often they were prescribed.
- Expanded and worked to protect Medicaid, which so far has helped over 125,000 people with substance use disorder get high-quality affordable treatment.
- Provided funding for 45 centers of excellence, treatment facilities to integrate behavioral health, primary care and evidence-based medication assisted treatment that will allow nearly 11,000 Pennsylvanians to receive care.
- Created the drug-take back program, which since 2014 has grown the number of drug take-back boxes to more than 700 and destroyed more than 300,000 pounds of drugs.
- Made the opioid reversal antidote naloxone available to all Pennsylvanians through a standing order signed by Physician General Rachel Levine. Naloxone has helped to save more 5,000 lives in the commonwealth by reversing overdoses, so people can get into treatment.
- Created 10 sets of prescribing guidelines to assist health care professionals deliver the best, most appropriate care to individuals with substance use disorder.
- Worked with Pennsylvania’s medical schools to create new curricula that will help future doctors learn how to safely prescribe opioids, and avoid overprescribing them.
- Created a toll-free help line to connect individuals seeking treatment for themselves or a loved one with immediate help. Since it was launched one year ago, helpline staff members have taken more than 17,000 calls to connect people in need with treatment and services.
- Limited the number of opioids that can be prescribed to a minor or someone discharged from an emergency room to a seven-day supply.
- Expanded access to naloxone by providing funds to first responders and law enforcement, which will help them to maintain supplies of this life-saving drug.
- Provided $2 million to expand specialty drug courts – a strategy that will divert offenders into programs that provide real treatment and recovery options.
Independence Blue Cross President and Chief Executive Officer Dan Hilferty, Independence Blue Cross Foundation President Lorina Marshall-Blake and Caron Treatment Centers President and CEO Doug Tieman also spoke at the event, outlining their efforts to date, and expressing the shared commitment to this fight.
“Addiction knows no boundaries. It affects people of all ages, races and backgrounds,” said Hilferty. “Every single life lost is heartbreaking, and the pain in our communities is devastating.
“We must provide resources for prevention, along with access to quality treatments and we have to eliminate the stigma surrounding addiction so that those in crisis and their families are not ashamed or afraid to come forward and get help.”
“I pledge to continue to focus our energies and our resources on stopping this crisis from damaging our communities and our families,” Wolf said.
“We can no longer allow our neighborhoods, our communities and our families to lose their loved ones to this disease. We need to work together to reach real solutions to this complex and damaging problem.”
For more information on the Wolf Administration’s efforts to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic, visit governor.pa.gov.