Gov. Wolf announces plan to fight opioid use in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced a major budget initiative to fight the state's opioid epidemic. He's proposing $10 million in his 2017-2018 budget to provide the live-saving medication Naloxone to first responders and law enforcement across the state. Naloxone helps save the lives of people overdosing on heroin or prescription drugs.

The money would be available through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, chaired by former Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey, who joined the governor at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown.

"Expanding access to Naloxone is crucial in continuing our fight against the opioid epidemic," Gov. Wolf said. "We cannot help our family members, friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens get the treatment they need if they die from an overdose of prescription opioids or heroin. Since November of 2014, more than 2,320 opioid overdoses have been reversed by first responders across Pennsylvania. As this terrible disease continues to devastate our families and communities, we must ensure the widespread access of Naloxone."

The Wolf administration also says heroin and opioid overdoses are now the state's leading cause of accidental deaths.

Plus, expanding access to Naloxone goes hand-in-hand with the Wolf administration's "warm-handoff" policy, which is when a person with a substance use disorder is transferred from a hospital or other healthcare provider to a drug treatment provider.

Together, the governor says Naloxone and the warm-handoff are saving lives, and getting patients into treatment to begin their recoveries.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, also there, said "We need to be merciless with drug dealers, understand addiction is a disease, not a crime, and work with the medical and pharmaceutical communities to help curb the abuse of opioids that is fueling this epidemic."

Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, noted "You can't get into treatment for your addiction if you die on the streets or in your home as a result of an overdose. That is why making Naloxone available to law enforcement, EMS, hospital workers, pharmacies, schools, and individuals at risk of an overdose is integral to any effective strategy to combat this epidemic."

Wolf will make the request in the budget proposal he submits to the Legislature next week for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Last year, the Legislature approved $20 million to expand addiction treatment programs.