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11/06/2019

Opioid Command Center Warns of Increase in Overdoses in Dauphin County

Harrisburg, PA - The Opioid Command Center today warned residents of an abnormally high number of drug-related overdoses over the past few days. Since the evening of Saturday, November 2, there have been 24 suspected drug-related overdoses involving various forms of substance use in Dauphin County.

“One overdose is too many, and 24 overdoses in one county over a few days is extremely alarming,” said Ray Barishansky, Incident Commander of the Opioid Command Center. “We are urging anyone struggling with a substance use disorder to seek help. If you call 1-800-622-HELP, professionals are standing by ready to assist and get you connected to resources and treatment. Treatment works and recovery is possible.”

The Opioid Command Center issues EpiCenter alerts to communicate unusually high numbers of emergency room visits for drug-related overdoses to state and local partners, including first responders, hospitals, county drug and alcohol staff, etc. EpiCenter alerts are one of the many initiatives established by the Opioid Command Center to help fight the opioid epidemic.

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 16 state agencies and the Office of the Attorney General, spearheaded by the departments of Health and Drug and Alcohol Programs.

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:

  • Distributing more than 7,000 kits of naloxone to Pennsylvanians in September 2019 and another 7,000 kits in December 2018.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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

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

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