Governor Tom Wolf announced the second renewal of his 90-day opioid disaster declaration, which was introduced in January, renewed in April and set to expire July 4. The renewal allows for the initiatives introduced in the past 180 days to continue without interruption.
The governor also signed Senate Bill 978, giving hospice staff the authority to properly destroy unused drugs following a patient’s death. Previously, hospice staff had to return any unused pharmaceuticals to the family. This process can, and had in some cases, been abused with undesirable outcomes. It also placed another burden on grieving families as they had to seek out a legal collection mechanism in their community.
“It’s my hope that by simplifying the process for disposing of unused medications following a death, we are taking another step toward taking dangerous medications out of the hands of anyone who might misuse them,” Gov. Wolf.
“An effective way to combat this crisis is to prevent prescribed drugs from falling into the wrong hands,” Sen. Lisa Baker said. “This avenue opened as the unintended consequence of a change in federal regulations. When the Wyoming County coroner alerted us to the problem, we were able to quickly move a remedy through.”
“We have made real progress during the disaster declaration to stem the tide of this epidemic and provide better resources and coordination for those on the front lines,” Gov. Wolf said. “But it is critical that we keep building on our efforts at prevention, rescue, and treatment and by extending the disaster declaration for another 90 days we ensure that my administration and local partners can continue to use every tool available to them to help people and communities in need.
“Extending this declaration will allow us to continue our efforts to break down silos and enhance collaboration across state government, as we add more departments in this concerted effort and extend our efforts through regional Opioid Command Center meetings and increased data collection with the Opioid Data Dashboard.”
While the declaration renewals continue, Gov. Wolf and Sen. Jay Costa in April announced legislation to empower the secretary of health to declare a public health emergency, creating a more streamlined vehicle for deploying resources specific to that emergency – opioids or another health crisis.
Senate Bill 1001 would create the designation of a public health emergency declaration, which empowers the Department of Health to waive regulations, create new temporary regulations, publish notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin for tracking and treating a disease, illness, or event, and allow public workers to provide treatment to control the emergency. The legislation passed the Senate unanimously, has been referred to the house health committee.
More information on the Wolf Administration’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and how people suffering from this disease can get help is here.