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08/30/2019

Opioid Command Center Encourages Participation in Overdose Awareness Day, Invites Pennsylvanians to Join in Naloxone Social Media Campaign

Harrisburg, PA - The Opioid Command Center is encouraging Pennsylvanians to participate in remembering individuals who have lost their battle with substance use disorder (SUD) during International Overdose Awareness Day tomorrow.

“Each year on August 31, we encourage all Pennsylvanians to pause in reflection and make a commitment to our loved ones to reduce stigma associated with SUD,” said Department of Drug and Alcohol Secretary Jen Smith. “The more we continue to share our struggles, losses, and achievements we will open doors for others to seek help. May we all be unified in our grief and come together as a commonwealth to advocate on behalf of our loved ones today and every day.”

“We want to ensure that Pennsylvanians suffering from the disease of addiction, and their families have hope,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “This is one reason why the administration is increasing our efforts to stop overdoses and working to get the life-saving drug, naloxone, into the hands of Pennsylvanians. The Surgeon General of the United States has said that everyone has a role as a first responder in this crisis.”

Throughout September in recognition of Recovery Month, the Wolf Administration will be holding Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now events, an initiative spearheaded by the opioid command center to increase awareness of overdose deaths and help fight the ongoing epidemic. The events include two free naloxone distribution days on September 18 and 25. Naloxone will be available at locations across the state, while supplies last.

In addition, the Department of Health is launching its Why I Carry Naloxone social media campaign. Secretary Levine is challenging Pennsylvanians to share on their social media pages why they carry naloxone. Throughout September, the department will be sharing these short testimonials from residents who carry naloxone. Individuals who post their videos are encouraged to use the hashtag #WhyICarryNaloxone, to caption their photo.

“Substance use disorder is a disease, it is not a moral failing. The opioid crisis does not discriminate, and it can affect anyone regardless of their background or where they come from,” said Secretary Levine. “No one should feel ashamed to carry the lifesaving drug, naloxone. Naloxone saves lives, period. I carry naloxone because I cannot get someone into treatment and on the path to recovery if they are dead.”

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. 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 2,700 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 26,000 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.
  • 3,055 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, Health, 717-787-1783 or ra-dhpressoffice@pa.gov

                        Rachel Kostelac, DDAP, 717-547-3314

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