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Pa. governor signs disaster emergency in opioid crisis

11 January 2018

But Butler, with 35 fatal overdoses in the city limits past year, was by far municipality with the most opioid-related deaths.

Officials say, it allows the state to override a lot of existing regulations to address the crisis.

The declaration is the first-of-its-kind for a public health emergency in Pennsylvania and will utilize a command center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to track progress and enhance coordination.

Some other initiatives include increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, allowing EMS to leave behind Naloxone at a user's home, and expanding the Department of Drug and Alcohol Program's 24/7 emergency drug hotline.

- Waive annual licensing requirements for high-performing drug and alcohol treatment facilities to allow for bi-annual licensure process which streamlines licensing functions and better allocates staff time.

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Philadelphia is home to the highest overdose numbers in the state, which city officials say may have hit 1,200 deaths past year.

"The declaration enables us to waive requirements on a broad basis without the need for those providers to submit specific requests to us", she said.

"Now, the federal government must do its part so that states don't have to deal with this alone. As the devastating effects of this epidemic continue to ravage communities in Pennsylvania, today's declaration sends a clear message that more work remains to be done".

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, in a statement, commended Wolf's move.

Measures to cut through red tape and connect addicts to services more quickly "is very exciting", she added. Previously, only the Health Department, State Department, attorney general's office and private physicians could see the database.

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The attorney general said he's made fighting the opioid crisis his top priority and that's resulted in arrests of, on average, more than four drug dealers a day. Our arrests of medical personnel and others for illegally diverting prescription drugs are up 72 percent.

Yoder also chairs the Lancaster County Joining Forces Coalition, a cooperative effort among groups representing health care, law enforcement, treatment and awareness efforts in the region.

Yoder said Wolf's announcement "many opportunities for improvement" in the methods for dealing with drug-use and overdose issues.

The opioid epidemic has hit the commonwealth hard over the past few years.

"Our role is really focused in on doing the things we normally do in any disaster, whether it's gathering information from a situation awareness perspective, working with state agencies identifying problems, and working with them on what they have, the ability to provide the resources to solve those problems", said Rick Flinn, director of PEMA.

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Pa. governor signs disaster emergency in opioid crisis