Wolf, White House push for funding to fight heroin crisis
Taking a three-pronged approach — educating communities, arresting dealers and rehabilitating addicts — is key to addressing opioid and heroin addiction, according to those who participated in a White House conference call Friday about the health crisis.
That can get expensive, though, so Gov. Tom Wolf is urging Pennsylvania lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to approve President Barack Obama's $1.1 billion request to fight this nationwide epidemic. The commonwealth would be eligible for up to $46 million over two years to expand access to treatment options.
"We need more treatment beds," Wolf said during the conference call. "We need to recognize this is the problem it is. We can’t arrest our way to a cure here. We need to treat it as the disease it is."
Currently, there are around 80 recovery homes in York City, city officials estimate, but it's unclear how many there are in the county. No state agency keeps track of exactly how many there are, and there's no body for providing oversight. As long as the building is up to code and no one there is charged with any crimes, the facility operates unhindered.
Arrests: In Bucks County, arrests have gone up more than 100 percent in the past 10 years, according to Fred Harran, the director of public safety in Bensalem Township, who participated in the conference call. That hasn't stopped the number of fatal overdoses from increasing right along with the number of arrests.
"We can’t arrest our way out of this," Harran said. "I’ve been in law enforcement for 30 years. Arresting is a huge part of the issue. We need to continue to arrest drug dealers and people bringing (drugs) into the country, but we need to help" the users.
Making sure people have access to treatment through all stages of recovery is a focus for Wolf's administration. The governor proposed $34 million in his budget for treatment centers around the commonwealth. With this funding, Pennsylvania also would see $18 million in matching federal funds through Medicaid.
"I support the president and his effort getting more funding for the recovery of addicts," Wolf said. "This is really a bipartisan issue. There is real interest and real will of policymakers in Pennsylvania to address this issue. Legislators need to put some money behind the good intentions."
Coordination: Dr. Matt Howie, medical director of the City of York Bureau of Health, said it will take more coordination on the part of state and local officials to make sure people get the treatment they need and get it safely.
"The system is just not prepared for that," he said. "We need to adapt to our reality. You have to hit on all areas of education and community involvement and recovery. Then we have to meaningfully plan for it."
County officials and members of the York County Heroin Task Force met last Wednesday with Fred Brason, executive director of Project Lazarus in North Carolina, to discuss how the groups can work more efficiently together and bring the community into the problem solving.
Other ideas for how to combat the opioid and heroin epidemic are still coming from that session, Howie said.
There is one methadone and suboxone clinic in York County. Pyramid Healthcare Inc. is located at 104 Davies Drive in Springettsbury Township.