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Opioid Command Center Highlights Progress Made in Battling the Opioid Overdose Epidemic


Pittsburgh, PA - Today at the Allegheny County Overdose Prevention Coalition’s summer conference, Pennsylvania Opioid Command Center Incident Commander Ray Barishansky highlighted the commonwealth’s progress in fighting the opioid overdose epidemic since Governor Tom Wolf first signed the disaster declaration more than a year ago at the.

“The most recent data reflects a decrease in overdose deaths across Pennsylvania, a sign that the work being done is making a difference,” Barishansky said. “However, new challenges, including the increase of overdoses from other drugs in the last few weeks and months, mean that our work must continue to address this crisis. We remain laser-focused and committed to continuing to address substance use disorder in the commonwealth.”

Data released last week by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency shows that there was approximately an 18 percent decrease in the number of overdose deaths from 2017 to 2018. Across the state, 41 counties saw a decrease in the overdose death rate, but 23 counties saw an increase in their overdose death rate.

The Opioid Command Center, established in January 2018 when Gov. Wolf signed the first opioid disaster declaration, meets every week to discuss the opioid crisis. The command center is staffed by personnel from 17 state agencies, spearheaded by the departments of Health and Drug and Alcohol Programs.

Work to address the opioid crisis focuses on three areas: prevention, rescue and treatment. Efforts over the past four years, working with state agencies, local, regional and federal officials, have resulted in significant action to address the opioid crisis:

  • The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program has reduced opioid prescriptions by 25 percent and has virtually eliminated doctor shopping.

  • The Opioid Data Dashboard and Data Dashboard 2.0 is providing public-facing data regarding prevention, rescue and treatment.

  • Eight PacMAT centers are serving as part of a hub-and-spoke model to provide treatment to people where they live, with $16.7 million invested into the centers.

  • More than 45 Centers of Excellence, administered by the Department of Human Services, provide evidence-based treatment to those on Medicaid suffering from a drug addiction.

  • The waiver of birth certificate fees for those with opioid use disorder has helped close to 2,400 people, enabling easier entry into recovery programs.

  • A standing order signed by Dr. Rachel Levine in 2018 allowed EMS to leave behind nearly 1,100 doses of naloxone.

  • Education has been provided to more than 4,000 prescribers through either online or face-to-face education.

  • More than 22,000 physicians have been visited and provided training on how to prescribe opioids cautiously and judiciously.

  • 813 drug take-back boxes help Pennsylvanians properly dispose of unwanted drugs, including 482,000 pounds of unwanted drugs in 2018.

  • The Get Help Now Hotline received nearly 25,000 calls, with nearly half of all callers connected directly to a treatment provider.

  • The state prison system has expanded their Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program, which is viewed as a model program for other states.

  • A body scanner pilot project was successful in reducing overdoses and violent crime in a number of facilities. Body scanners are in place in more than 30 locations and are currently being expanded to additional facilities.

  • More than 100 licensed physicians or prescribers have been disciplined for wrongful practice over the past two years.

  • Several agencies have worked together to collaborate on the seizure and destruction of illicit opioids across Pennsylvania.

  • Schools have received education and training on opioids. Future plans are in place to make opioid education a standard component of school-based training.

  • The coordination with seven major commercial providers has expanded access to naloxone and mental health care, while also working to make it more affordable.

  • Naloxone has been made available to first responders through the Commission on Crime and Delinquency, with more than 25,000 doses made available and more than 4,500 saves through that program. In addition, EMS have administered more than 23,000 doses of naloxone and more than 7,000 doses were made available to members of the public during the state’s naloxone distribution last year.

More information on the opioid crisis can be found on the Department of Health’s website at or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

MEDIA CONTACT: Nate Wardle, 717-787-1783 or

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