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Year in Review: Secretary Murphy Highlights State Efforts in Keeping Pennsylvanians Healthy in 2016


Harrisburg, PA – As 2016 concludes, Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy today reflected on the accomplishments of the Department of Health (DOH) in the past year.


“This has been an extremely important year in changing the face of care in the commonwealth,” said Secretary Murphy. “We have worked to battle the opioid epidemic, implement a patient-focused medical marijuana program, improve the nursing homes system in Pennsylvania, combat the Zika virus, and strengthen immunization regulations. While we are always looking for ways to improve and innovate, I believe that we have been successful in implementing real change that will help to keep Pennsylvanians happy and healthy.”


Opioid Epidemic

Working collaboratively with other state agencies, DOH helped to develop the Wolf administration’s new prescribing guideline recommendations. DOH also successfully implemented the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). The PDMP collects information on all filled prescriptions for controlled substances. This information helps health care providers safely prescribe controlled substances and helps patients get the treatment they need. Today, more than 60,000 prescribers and their delegates are registered with the database and are using it to help treat patients. Additionally, the department has expanded the distribution of naloxone to first responders and high schools.


Medical Marijuana

On April 17, Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 16 into law, creating a patient-focused medical marijuana program in the commonwealth. Since then, the department has worked with stakeholders and legislators to develop and implement regulations for the program. Temporary regulations for growers and processers have been published, and regulations for laboratories and dispensaries are under development. In addition, parents and caregivers of sick children now have access to Safe Harbor Letters, which allow them to legally possess medical marijuana. To date, 126 letters have been awarded.


Nursing Homes

In October, Secretary Murphy released the findings of the Nursing Home Quality Improvement Task Force, which took the most comprehensive look at Pennsylvania nursing homes in 15 years. As a result of this effort, the department has begun work to improve the way it regulates nursing homes by incorporating standards on the quality of life, quality of care, and patient-centered care of the facilities. DOH also launched a new campaign “Speak up. We are listening,” to let Pennsylvanians know they have a safe place to raise their concerns. A redesigned nursing home portion of the DOH website makes it easier for individuals to find important information. This new webpage includes monthly reports of nursing home survey results and sanctions.

Childhood Immunization

On October 20, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved new regulations requiring children entering public schools to receive vaccinations against diseases that spread easily and disrupt student life. These regulations will go into effect for the 2017-18 school year.


These regulations move away from the current eight-month provisional period for school immunizations and implement a new process to ensure students are fully immunized or have a plan for full immunization within the first five days of school. The current eight-month provisional window for immunization presents a very real risk for children to become infected and potentially spread preventable, communicable diseases to others.



Throughout the year, the department worked with partners at the Departments of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, as well as local officials, to prevent Zika from entering Pennsylvania. This summer, the department educated pregnant women, women who wanted to become pregnant, and their partners about the dangers of Zika and how to protect themselves. In Pennsylvania, there were no Zika cases that were a result of local transmission.


MEDIA CONTACT: April Hutcheson, 717-787-1783


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