Sen. Casey pushes for more anti-heroin funding

Katherine Ranzenberger

In 2014, 2,732 Pennsylvanians died of drug overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey said he hopes to lower that number substantially over the coming years with an amendment that would add emergency funding for key programs in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

“More Pennsylvanians die from drug overdoses than from car crashes,” the Democrat said in a conference call on Wednesday. “This money will help fund intervention programs and prescription drug-monitoring programs. We need to make sure states have the resources to combat this crisis.”

The York County Coroner Office confirmed Feb. 27 via Twitter that 65 deaths in York County were heroin-related in 2015. That’s three higher than the record 62 in 2014.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, have sponsored the amendment to Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. The amendment would appropriate $600 million in emergency funding to address heroin and opioid overdoses.

The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grand would receive $300 million for states to fund programs in prevention, recovery and treatment. This $300 million includes $20 million specifically for treatment of pregnant and postpartum women.

The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program would receive $230 million to fund state and local law enforcement initiatives.

Another $50 million would go to the CDC’s work on a prescription drug-monitoring program, as well as for rapid response projects and health system interventions. In addition, $10 million each would go to improving access to medication-assisted treatment services in high-risk communities and to assisting state and local law enforcement with the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force.

The money would help fund initiatives like getting naloxone, also known as Narcan, into the hands of more people. Naloxone can reverse the effects of an overdose within minutes of its administering.

York County among Pa. officers honored for naloxone use in overdose cases

All 23 police departments across York County started equipping officers with naloxone in kits at the beginning of April 2015. In the first eight months, 99 people were saved with the use of naloxone, York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said.

As of Feb. 29, York County officers have helped save 143 people with naloxone, according to the DA's office. Officers have had 13 losses after the administering of the drug.

“The support for this kind of initiative is substantial across the aisle,” Casey said. “We have the opportunity to help fund this and help keep our children safe.”

The best thing for Washington to do was help fund the initiatives and step out of the way, he said. Local law enforcement and medical professionals have the experience and the knowledge to help these people out during this epidemic.

“What they don’t need is rhetoric. They need the resources,” Casey said. “Often they don’t have the tools to which means the dollars. Good treatment works. We know this. Good treatment is expensive.”