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Wolf Administration Gives Update about Opioid Disaster Declaration

January 29, 2018

State officials today provided an update about the state’s response to Governor Wolf’s heroin and opioid disaster declaration. The declaration, which Wolf signed on January 10, paves the way for unprecedented steps to coordinate the state’s response to the crisis and look at data-based response assessment.

Through this, the coordinating agencies have established an Opioid Operational Command Center, which has been in operation for two weeks. The command center structure will allow Pennsylvania to provide more data and analysis, and, as Deputy Secretary of Health Ray Barishansky noted, to “quickly identify resource needs, and fulfil them.”

At the press conference, Barishansky, Acting Secretary of Health and Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine, and administration officials addressed several of the declaration’s 13 components, including:

  • Efforts to create an overdose database
  • Work to identify and report neonatal abstinence syndrome
  • Expansion of the naloxone standing order to allow for leave-behind in case a patient refuses to be transported
  • Department of Correction’s use of body scanners to help limit contraband going into facilities, reduce drug use, and better manage re-entrant population
  • Pennsylvania Drug Monitoring Database’s integrated report, which provides insight into prescribing practices (which have decreased), doctor shopping (which has been “virtually eliminated”), and overdoses
  • Additional tools to measure progress and work with other stakeholder groups to improve response

Members of the administration noted that they are pleased with their initial steps and they are working to add more components to measure progress, and connect with state agencies and stakeholders.

HAP and the Pennsylvania hospital community support the Governor’s declaration and have been working with state agencies, lawmakers, and their respective staff to be a part of the solution to the opioid crisis. Pennsylvania hospitals are serving as centers of excellence (COE), engaging in warm handoff procedures, and are working on a variety of individual and collaborative programs to address the issue in their respective facilities.

Officials said that preliminary data from the first year of the state’s COE program has shown that the 45 centers have been able to speed up how quickly individuals get connected to treatment, as well as provide longer-term connections to treatment.

Additionally, this spring, the commonwealth will hold six warm handoff meetings at locations across Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s hospitals, HAP, county officials, and providers will work together to share information and best practices.      

For more information about the opioid disaster declaration and the Pennsylvania hospital response, please contact Jennifer Jordan, vice president, regulatory advocacy, or Scott Bishop, senior vice president, legislative advocacy.

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