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Wolf Administration Receives More Than $75M to Further Address Substance Use Crisis in PA

Saturday, September 7, 2019 @ 12:09 AM

Posted by Joanne Bauer

Acting Secretary Jennifer Smith portraitHARRISBURG, Pa. – On Friday, the Wolf Administration announced that Pennsylvania will receive more than $75 million in additional federal funding over the next year to support efforts to address the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania.

This brings the total in federal funding for the state’s opioid response to more than $141 million over the past two years.

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) has been awarded another $55.9 million by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The grant represents a second year of funding for Pennsylvania through the State Opioid Response grant to continue practices and services that have a demonstrated evidence-based approach to prevention, treatment, recovery, and education, and training.

“Pennsylvania is thrilled to continue to receive this unprecedented amount of funding for our drug and alcohol field,” said DDAP Secretary Jen Smith (pictured above). “Making a dent in the opioid crisis requires doing something above and beyond what we’ve done traditionally in the commonwealth. This funding allows us to implement innovative programs to support previous holes in our system, like the housing initiative and loan repayment programs. We look forward to working with our sister agencies and community programs to further enhance the services and supports to Pennsylvanians in need.”

The $55.9 million will be used to continue year-one progress of the housing initiative and loan repayment program, as well as provide adequate funding to counties throughout the commonwealth in support of departmental goals of reducing stigma, intensifying prevention, strengthening treatment systems, and empowering sustained recovery.

Additionally, the Department of Health received a federal grant for more than $8.4 million, expected for each of the next three years, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), to support efforts to address the substance use crisis in Pennsylvania.

“Timely access to data and information surrounding the substance use crisis is essential as we work to help Pennsylvanians,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Funding will allow us to continue our prevention work, as we look to assist those with the disease of addiction. We are committed to working to address this crisis in the areas of prevention, rescue, and treatment to help affected Pennsylvanians and their families and loved ones.”

The funding is to support the state in its drug-related overdose surveillance work to get high quality, comprehensive and timely data on overdose-related morbidity and mortality, and to use that data to assist in prevention and intervention efforts.

The funding will go the department’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Office to continue the work of the PA Overdose Data to Action program, which includes allowing for the collection of data for all drug overdoses. Previously, only data on opioid overdoses was collected. Availability of this funding will improve access to high quality, comprehensive and timely data on overdose morbidity and mortality.

Areas where the funding will help with prevention include:

  • Increased collaboration with county and municipal health departments;
  • Additional naloxone training for first responders;
  • Staffing the program’s Patient Advocacy Unit;
  • Provide individualized, one-on-one education to opioid prescribers; and
  • Offering continuing medical education to providers on evidence-based approaches to opioid prescribing and addressing substance use disorder.

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 its 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.

For more information about opioids and the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, visit www.health.pa.gov.


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