Governor Wolf Urges Passage of Legislation to Combat Heroin and Opioid Epidemic

Harrisburg, Pa. – Governor Wolf today urged the General Assembly to consider an important set of bills aimed at providing Pennsylvanians with the tools they need to prevent and fight the heroin and opioid epidemic. These bills would limit over-prescribing, further regulate recovery homes, require opioid education in schools, and provide a humane path to require treatment. Last year, Governor Wolf signed five key bills that became law.  

“These legislative priorities will help us to continue working together, across the aisle, to help people suffering from substance use disorder,” Gov. Wolf said. “We are making progress by focusing on prevention, treatment, and education, but we need to do more and these bills can help us by increasing protections, limiting opioid prescriptions, boosting education in our schools, and providing for more options to get people who need help into treatment.” 

“The legislation being considered by the legislature, along with the governor’s input, will have a direct and meaningful impact on the health and welfare of our commonwealth and its citizens,” said Senator Gene Yaw. “I have said that each of these bills can be compared to the strands of a rope.  Each strand represents one measure to fight the epidemic. Alone, they might not be fully effective, but together they can strengthen the rope and our collective efforts.”  

Senate Bill 472, introduced by Sen. Yaw, limits prescriptions for a controlled substance containing an opioid to seven days unless there is a medical emergency that puts the patient’s health or safety at risk. 

The bill, among other things, also requires all prescribers who are licensed, registered, or otherwise legally authorized to distribute, dispense, or administer a controlled substance containing an opioid to discuss the risks of addiction and dangers of overdoses associated with the medication with the patient or family. 

Sen. Tom McGarrigle introduced a bill to allow the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to regulate recovery houses that receive federal, state, or county dollars and serve individuals in recovery from substance use disorder. The commonwealth currently has no jurisdiction over these facilities. 

“Properly run recovery houses can turn lives around, but unregulated, unscrupulous recovery houses are wasting not only taxpayer dollars, but lives,” Sen. McGarrigle said. “Individuals and entire communities suffer when an opportunity for safe and effective recovery is sacrificed. Senate Bill 446 is another step in the right direction in fighting the addiction crisis.” 

House bills 121 and 1190, introduced by Rep. Aaron Kaufer and Rep. Joanna McClinton, respectively, both address prevention education in schools. One would require mandatory education for students in grades six through 12 with an emphasis on prescription drug abuse, the power of addiction, and heroin. The other requires mandatory education for heroin, methamphetamines, and other drugs from kindergarten through grade 12. Each includes involvement by the departments of Education and Health to develop curriculum and train teachers. 

There is work in progress on an amendment to Senate bill 391, introduced by Sen. Jay Costa. The legislation amends the Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Act (D&A Act) to reflect mandatory evaluation and treatment provisions included in the Mental Health Procedures Act (MHPA), allowing an individual to be subject to mandatory evaluation and treatment if the individual has a substance use disorder and is incapable or unwilling to accept voluntary treatment and the individual presents an imminent danger or imminent threat of danger to self or others within the past 30 days. 

“To ensure a win in the battle against opioid addiction, we need to give more tools to the people on the front lines – and often, those people are the families of people fighting addiction,” Sen. Costa said. “Not only do they have to watch their loved one suffer with addiction, but there is very little they can do to get them into treatment.  

“My legislation allows parents, guardians or spouses to petition for mandatory commitment so that a loved one would be effectively treated for opioid addiction.  

“The bill establishes a process where a physician can determine whether the patient suffers from alcohol or drug addiction and if they are a threat to themselves or others. The patient is notified of their rights, and their mandatory course of treatment is determined by a medical expert – only after consideration of treatment alternatives based on the individual’s unique needs and community resources. My bill will ensure that more people get into treatment, and that treatment addresses their individual needs.” 

“I encourage the legislature to make passage of these bills a priority,” Gov. Wolf said. “And I thank those lawmakers who have taken the initiative to draft them. I commend them for sharing my commitment to help even more Pennsylvanians fight the disease of addiction and look forward to continuing our work together on additional bills to combat this crisis.” 

 MEDIA CONTACT: J.J. Abbott, 717-783-1116

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