Senate Leaders: Addressing PA’s Heroin and Opioid Epidemic a Top Priority

(HARRISBURG) – Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34) today highlighted the importance of continuing to address the widespread heroin and opioid addiction across Pennsylvania.

The Senators said that over the past two years the Legislature has been working to raise awareness on the issue and taking positive steps forward to address this epidemic.  In 2014, The Center for Rural Pennsylvania began holding public hearings to examine and discuss current policies and practices related to heroin and opioid addiction, including prevention, treatment and law enforcement efforts.

Senator Gene Yaw (R-23), in his role as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, has been instrumental in leading a bi-partisan and bi-cameral effort to raise awareness about the epidemic and look at ways to educate the public and effectively treat those with an addiction.

To date the Center has held 10 hearings across the state, received 60 hours of testimony and issued two reports that have resulted in action by the Senate to address the issue including recently passing Senate Bill 1202 (Yaw). The bill, which requires continuing medical education training for physicians in pain management and dispensing and prescribing practices of opioids, is awaiting action in the state House of Representatives.

More information and video of the hearings is accessible on Senator Yaw’s website www.senatorgeneyaw.com.  Additional legislative measures will be introduced in the near future.

“Rural, urban and suburban areas of our Commonwealth are all seeing the devastating impact of heroin and opioid abuse,” Scarnati said.  “For the past several years we have been working to bring people together to work toward combating this epidemic and helping our communities recover.  Legislative policies that we can change or implement to aid in this fight should certainly be advanced.”

“When we are looking at issues with drugs especially heroin and opioid addiction, we have found this is not just a big city issue,” Corman said. “It touches every corner of our Commonwealth and devastates families in every county. The Senate will continue to seek legislative answers that will provide our communities with the tools they need to fight this epidemic.”

“When we started working on this issue over two years ago, our objective was to raise the awareness of the heroin problem in rural Pennsylvania,” Yaw said.  “We quickly discovered that this is a problem that affects all Pennsylvanians.  I am encouraged to see that our efforts are being recognized, as evidenced by actions of the General Assembly.”

The Senate has recently advanced three important legislative initiatives that were signed into law to combat this crisis:

  • Senate Bill 524 (Scarnati) – Now Act 80 of 2015 and established the Non-narcotic Medication Assisted Substance Abuse Treatment Grant Pilot Program within the Department of Corrections (DOC).
  • Senate Bill 1164 (Pileggi) – Now Act 139 of 2015 or David’s Law, provided legal protection for witnesses, or Good Samaritans providing medical help at the scene of an overdose. In addition, it allowed naloxone, a synthetic drug that blocks opiate receptors in the nervous system and known as the brand name Narcan, to be prescribed to a third party, such as a friend or family member, and administered by law enforcement and firefighters.
  • Senate Bill 1180 (Vance) – Now Act 191 of 2014, expanded the types of drugs monitored under the state’s existing Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to include Schedule II through V controlled substances. It also created a Board within the Department of Health to establish and oversee an electronic data system listing.

“Addressing this epidemic remains a top priority for Senate Republicans.  We look forward to further discussions with House Leaders and Governor Wolf regarding ways to continue the fight to combat this devastating epidemic.  There are no quick fixes or answers to this crisis – we must move forward with a thoughtful and comprehensive approach.” Scarnati concluded.

 

CONTACTS:

Kate Eckhart (Senator Scarnati) 717-787-7084

Jenn Kocher (Senator Corman) 717-787-1377