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09/16/2019

Pennsylvania Kicks-Off 'Get Help Now Week' to Stop Overdoses in PA

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine today joined UPMC's speaker series "Opioids: The Fight Continues" as part of Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week, a statewide initiative to get the overdose reversal medication naloxone to Pennsylvanians and get help for residents suffering from the disease of opioid-use disorder.

"The opioid crisis is an ongoing battle, but we will not give up our fight," Dr. Levine said. "It is impossible to get someone into treatment who is dead. Every Pennsylvanian has a role to play as a potential first responder who can save a life by having naloxone on hand and using it if they come across someone who has overdosed."

The Wolf Administration's work to address the opioid crisis focuses on three areas: prevention; rescue and treatment. During the event, Dr. Levine highlighted the collaborative work with state agencies and local, regional and federal officials that has resulted in substantial action to address the opioid crisis.

Dr. Michael Lynch, medical director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center and substance use disorder services at UPMC Health Plan, explained that UPMC is hosting the "Opioids: The Fight Continues" event to share with all staff – from clinicians to executives – the impact of the opioid epidemic and the resources available to fight it.

"The opioid epidemic is sweeping and does not discriminate," Dr. Lynch said. "It cuts across all cultural and socioeconomic divides. What they have in common is that they are all human beings with thoughts and feelings and family members who care and love them. We all need to take a step back and see the person who has the disease of opioid use disorder to address the stigma attached to it."

As part of National Recovery Month, Pennsylvania is hosting Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week, where residents will be able to go to a state health center or their local pharmacy to get the overdose reversal medication naloxone. This medication reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and gives the patient a chance at recovery.

Residents will be able to visit one of 95 locations across the state to obtain their free naloxone. The distributions will primarily take place at state health centers and county and municipal health departments on Wednesday, September 18, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Wednesday, September 25, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., as supplies last. Some locations are operating at different hours and not on both days. For the most up-to-date information regarding distribution locations, visit our website

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. 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. 

For more information on Pennsylvania's response to the opioid crisis visit www.pa.gov/opioids.

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

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