OPED: Proposed budget has more help for Pa. opioid crisis
- Gov. Wolf’s innovative 2017-18 budget will provide more help in combating the opioid crisis.
- One proposal would unify four human services departments to streamline the services each provides.
- Also included is a new $10 million naloxone grant program for first responders.
Pennsylvania is in the middle of an unprecedented opioid epidemic that is taking a toll on every facet of our community. In 2015, the commonwealth saw more than 3,500 deaths — that’s 10 Pennsylvanians per day — due to overdoses, and the number continues to rise.
For the past two years, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) under the leadership of Gov. Tom Wolf has been battling to save the lives of our citizens. Often, the first challenge is attacking the stigma of substance use disorder (SUD). The disease of substance use disorder is sometimes viewed as a choice made by people.
But SUD is not a choice. SUD is a chronic disease, just like heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension.
DDAP, in collaboration with Gov. Wolf, is leading several initiatives. From advocating and providing for local police and other first responders to carry naloxone to reverse overdoses, to working with counties to provide “warm handoffs” to get overdose survivors into immediate treatment, DDAP is fighting this crisis.
We’ve worked to set up almost 600 drug take-back boxes in local police stations and pharmacies to provide citizens with a way to safely dispose of unwanted opioids and other prescription drugs. We continue to work with parents, community groups, providers and others to help prevent the inappropriate use of alcohol and drugs.
Gov. Wolf’s innovative 2017-18 budget will provide more help in combating the opioid crisis. First, he is proposing to unify the four human services departments — Aging, Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health, and Human Services — to streamline the services that each of our agencies provide. This new department would be called the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and would offer one central location for accessing health and human services.
The new DHHS would serve as the single state authority for Medicaid, substance use and mental health, enabling the commonwealth to leverage more federal funding. This means that Pennsylvanians who need help for drug and alcohol treatment would contact one location and staff to help them decide who pays for the treatment and where they can find available help.
Also included in Gov. Wolf’s 2017-18 budget is a new $10 million naloxone grant program for first responders across the state to help law enforcement, EMS, firemen and women, and even parole officers reverse overdoses.
Naloxone is a drug that saves people from overdose, effectively bringing them back from the brink of death. If you know someone suffering from an opioid addiction, you should educate yourself about naloxone and arm yourself to prevent another death.
Recognizing the opioid issue as a public health crisis, Gov. Wolf is also proposing the creation of a cabinet-level position in his office. This new cabinet-level position assures us that this issue will continue to be appropriately represented at the top level of our state government.
There is no doubt that Gov. Wolf is committed to curbing the current opioid crisis and DDAP supports and joins in his initiatives to provide more help for Pennsylvanians suffering from an opioid use disorder. If you or someone you know needs help or treatment for an opioid use disorder or any substance use disorder, please call the PA Get Help Now hotline, available 24/7, at 1-800-662-HELP.
— Jennifer S. Smith is the Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.