Senate Approves Bills to Combat Opioid Crisis

The Senate approved a package of bills this week to combat the state’s heroin and opioid epidemic by improving prescription drug monitoring, limiting opioid prescriptions, targeting drug dealers and taking other steps to limit the damage inflicted by the addiction crisis in Pennsylvania communities, according to Senator Joe Pittman.

“The opioid epidemic is probably the most significant crisis we face — and have faced in many years. This package of bills is an important step in trying to address the issue,” said Senator Pittman. “Unfortunately there is no singular, silver bullet to solve it. We have to do our very best to give law enforcement and those who are on the front lines of dealing with this addiction and this crisis every tool possible. That is what this package seeks to do.”  Audio

The bills approved by the Senate and sent to the House of Representatives include:

Senate Bill 93, which creates a new statute establishing a second degree felony for the delivery or distribution of an illicit drug that results in “serious bodily injury” to the user.

Senate Bill 112, which limits the prescription for a controlled substance containing an opioid to seven days unless there is a medical emergency that puts the patients’ health or safety at risk.

Senate Bill 118, which creates a “Recovery to Work” pilot program to connect individuals in recovery with occupations through local workforce development boards

Senate Bill 223, which allows providers to leave a dose package of naloxone with an on-scene caregiver of a patient who overdosed on opioids.

Senate Bill 432, which allows Medicaid Managed Care Organizations to have access to information in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

Senate Bill 572, which requires patients prescribed opioids to enter into treatment agreements with a prescriber to ensure they understand the risks of addiction and dangers of overdose.

Senate Bill 675, which requires certification of office-based prescribers of the addiction treatment drug buprenorphine, and limits the drug’s use.

The package of bills is a continuation of bipartisan efforts led by Senate Republicans over the past six years to combat the opioid epidemic.

Beginning in 2014, lawmakers joined the Center for Rural Pennsylvania for a series of hearings to study the problem and identify solutions. As a result of these hearings, new laws were created to limit prescriptions, improve and expand addiction treatment, and improve public education about the dangers of drug abuse.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, opioid drug deaths statewide rose steadily in the early part of the decade before peaking at 5,559 in 2017. The number of opioid drug deaths finally declined in 2018 to 4,267.  At the same time, opioid prescriptions in Pennsylvania declined by 14 percent between 2016 and 2017.


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