Pennsylvania Governor Declares Heroin, Opioid Emergency

"While we have made progress in combating the heroin and opioid abuse crisis and drastically expanded Pennsylvania's response, we are still losing far too many Pennsylvanians," Wolf said. "I am taking this step to protect Pennsylvanians from this looming public health crisis, and I am using every tool at my disposal to get those suffering from substance use disorders into treatment, save more lives, and improve response coordination."

Pennsylvania's Gov. Tom Wolf on Jan. 10 signed a statewide heroin and opioid disaster declaration to bolster state response, increase access to treatment, and save lives. The declaration is the first-of-its-kind for a public health emergency in Pennsylvania and will use a command center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to track progress and enhance coordination of health and public safety agencies.

"While we have made progress in combating the heroin and opioid abuse crisis and drastically expanded Pennsylvania's response, we are still losing far too many Pennsylvanians," Wolf said. "I am taking this step to protect Pennsylvanians from this looming public health crisis, and I am using every tool at my disposal to get those suffering from substance use disorders into treatment, save more lives, and improve response coordination."

The declaration lists 13 key initiatives for state agencies, including the departments of Health, Drug and Alcohol Programs, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and the Pennsylvania State Police. "I routinely challenge all commonwealth agencies to think innovatively about how they continue to address the opioid epidemic and seek solutions that last long beyond our tenure in this building," said Wolf. "One such solution is to use the executive authority granted to me as the governor of this commonwealth to waive statutory regulations that create barriers to treatment and prevention, prevent first responders and others from saving lives, and reduce efficiency of our response."

The declaration establishes an Opioid Command Center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), which will house the Unified Opioid Coordination Group that will meet weekly during the disaster declaration to monitor implementation and progress of the initiatives. It also expands access to the state's prescription drug monitoring program; since 2016, 90,000 physicians have conducted more than 1 million searches on the PDMP, according to Wolf's announcement.

It also waives the face-to-face physician requirement for Narcotic Treatment Program admissions to allow initial intake review by a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant to expedite initial intakes and streamline coordination of care when an individual is most in need of immediate attention.

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