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Study Finds Pennsylvania among States with Highest Rate of Drug Overdose Deaths

June 14, 2019

According to a recent Commonwealth Fund study, Pennsylvania has the third highest death rate from drug overdoses (behind Ohio and West Virginia) and mortality rates from drug overdoses were at least five times higher than rates for alcohol-related deaths and about three times higher than suicide rates.

Its 2019 Scorecard on State Health System Performance assesses all 50 states and the District of Columbia on 47 health care measures, covering access, quality, service use and costs of care, health outcomes, and income-based health care disparities. National highlights from the report include:

  • Deaths from suicide, alcohol, and drugs are a regional epidemic, affecting states in different ways
  • The gains in health care coverage and access states have made since the Affordable Care Act was enacted have stalled
  • Growth in health spending per person in employer health plans is outpacing spending in Medicare

During 2018, Governor Tom Wolf signed a heroin and opioid disaster declaration, which has helped the administration take unprecedented steps to implement substance use disorder and overdose prevention, rescue, and treatment resources across the commonwealth. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health data, estimated Pennsylvania drug overdose deaths are down from 5,559 deaths in 2017 to 4,267 deaths in 2018.

HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospital community is supportive of these efforts and are working with state and local governments to lead the work to help substance use disorder patients access the treatment they need to recover from this disease. Hospitals are working to facilitate warm hand-off protocol, serving as centers of excellence, offering drug takeback facilities, and educating clinical staff and the public about substance use disorder. Several hospitals efforts have received statewide recognition as 2019 Achievement Award recipients.

In addition, HAP is advocating for specific state and federal actions that would help support efforts to address the opioid crisis, including:

For more information about HAP’s efforts, contact Jennifer Jordan, HAP’s vice president, regulatory advocacy; Robert Shipp, HAP’s vice president, quality and population health; Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy; or Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s vice president, federal advocacy.

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