The Scope of the Crisis

With 4,884 drug-related deaths in 2016, the  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data shows the number of drug deaths in Pennsylvania has increased by 15 percent from 2016 to 2017 (an increase of 739 deaths). The CDC also has a searchable database, called CDC Wonder.

According to a report recently issued by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, in 2017 there were 3,500 hospitalizations for opioid overdose. The full report detailing showing the rate has increased more than 1,000 % in the past 16 years, with nearly 2,000 babies born addicted last year alone can be found here.

Nationally, 72,000 drug overdose deaths have been recorded. It is important to remain mindful of the statistic that says drug deaths only represent 10 percent of those who abuse drugs.

Initially, the crisis was attributed to heroin deaths as people addicted to opioids began taking heroin because it was cheaper and readily available on the streets. Now, there is a surge in the synthetic opioid drug fentanyl which has become a leading cause of drug deaths. The drug is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. According to CDC estimates, fentanyl use drove drug overdose deaths to a record high in 2017.  

What are Opioids? 

Opioids are a class of drugs derived from or pharmacologically like opiates. While these analgesics are the most effective pharmaceuticals for killing pain, they carry with them a significant risk of addiction. Some data suggest that 60 percent of prescription opioid deaths occur in patients with no history of substance abuse and who are only prescribed an opioid by one health care practitioner. 

Understanding drug abuse and addiction impact every aspect of society, House Republicans are putting forward solutions to address every aspect.

Pennsylvania's  Youth
We cannot forget that addiction not only impacts the abuser, but it impacts families and children.  To enact meaningful measures to help children impacted, we need to know how children are impacted and to what degree. (House Bill 235 and House Bill 1707)  

Health Care Facilities/Prescribers
A person admitting that they need help for their addiction and finding a place to undergo treatment are two different things.  Going for treatment is often a time sensitive matter.  Knowing what beds are open, creating more existing beds for treatment and ensuring their safety are tools to examine. (House Bill 1043, House Bill 825 and House Bill 119)
It is already illegal to prescribe unneeded medication, but we need to make it harder for this practice to continue by the few unfit doctors.  We can make sure certain medications cannot just be dispensed without any further treatment orders or requiring specific safeguards are in place. (House Bill 124, House Bill 353, House Bill 396 and House Bill 932)

Anyone reading the local newspaper or watching the news reports has heard of instances where drug overdose victims are revived with Naloxone.  While this remains a lifesaving tool, responders often have their hands tied when it comes to helping an addict receive treatment after such an event. (House Bill 713)
Beginning the discussions about treatment options for those revived from an overdose is an issue other states and some areas here in Pennsylvania are beginning to examine. 
Known as a warm hand off, linking a person rescued from overdose death with the care they need is a critical next step. 

Counties/Government Efforts

No where else in the Commonwealth are the impacts and burdens of addiction more felt than by our local governments. 
Some struggle with finding solutions and others want more collaboration, more funding, and more available remedies.  Several measures have been introduced that provide options and additional resources. (House Bill 122, House Bill 1378, House Bill 2200, House Bill 127 and House Bill 741)

Legislation has been introduced to improve access to abuse-deterrent opioids which can be another tool to combat prescription drug abuse. (House Bill 288)

Often the face of addiction is considered to be that of a parent, a friend, a child, or a loved one.  These people can also be our co-workers.  Sometimes the addiction starts from a prescription to treat a work injury that balloons into addiction behaviors.  Stopping this form of addiction from beginning is key. (House Bill 18)