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08/07/2019

Opioid Command Center Highlights Progress Made in Battling the Opioid Overdose Epidemic, Provides Update on Current Crisis

Reading, PA – Pennsylvania Opioid Command Center Incident Commander Ray Barishansky today at the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania annual conference highlighted the commonwealth’s progress in fighting the opioid overdose epidemic since Governor Tom Wolf first signed the disaster declaration more than a year and a half ago. 

“While it is encouraging to see that overdose deaths have decreased across Pennsylvania, it does not mean we will slow down our efforts,” Barishansky said. “This crisis continues to affect thousands of Pennsylvanians and we are seeing other hurdles in the substance use crisis including new drugs, such as stimulants, that are involved in the substance use crisis. We remain laser-focused and committed to continuing to address substance use disorder in the commonwealth.”

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.

Recent data shows that in 2018, more than 4,400 people died from a drug overdose. This represents a nearly 18 percent decrease in drug overdose deaths from 2017.

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.

In December 2018, the Opioid Command Center held a successful naloxone distribution providing more than 7,000 kits of free Naloxone to Pennsylvanians. A second naloxone distribution is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sept. 18 and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sept. 25, while supplies last. Additional recent efforts include:

  • The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program has reduced opioid prescriptions by 27 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.
  • The waiver of birth certificate fees for those with opioid use disorder has helped close to 2,500 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.
  • More than 6,000 health care professionals 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 more than 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.
  • 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.       
  • The coordination with seven major commercial providers has expanded access to naloxone and mental health care, while also working to make it more affordable.
  • 2,940 cases of neonatal abstinence syndrome have been reported to the Opioid Command Center.
  • 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 25,000 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 health.pa.gov or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

MEDIA CONTACT:    Nate Wardle, 717-787-1783 or ra-dhpressoffice@pa.gov

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