Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) statistics on fatal overdoses that showed an incerease in Pennsylvania again last year are a call for the state and federal government to redouble efforts to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic, rather than dialing efforts back with funding cuts.
Wolf said in a statement that he believes proposals at the federal level to cut Medicaid would likely lead to these numbers going up further.
“The latest DEA figures on heroin and opioid deaths in Pennsylvania are extremely disturbing and reinforce that Pennsylvania and the federal government must fight even harder to combat the damage done to our families and communities by heroin and opioids and the disease of addiction,” Wolf said in a press release. “Budget cuts take us in the wrong direction. We must continue to put resources into treatment and tools for law enforcement, health professionals and families on the front-lines while also expanding education and prevention programs and ending the stigma of addiction.”
Wolf added that Pennsylvania is seeing 13 people each day die due to overdoses.
“State government and our federal partners must ensure that no resources in the fight against this burgeoning crisis are cut,” he stated. “Pennsylvania has taken action, but there is clearly more to do.”
The DEA’s statistics, first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, show a 37 percent increase in fatal overdoses in 2016 compared to 2015. Of those 4,642 fatal overdoses, the DEA attributed 85 percent to prescription or illegal opioids, including heroin, according to the report.
With this in mind, Wolf called on state lawmakers to preserve funding for key programs to provide aid to those suffering, including funding for:
- The commonwealth’s 45 ‘Centers of Excellence,’ which provide outpatient, holistic treatment programs for substance use with the explicit goal of integrating behavioral health and primary care.
- County-level human services, particularly substance abuse treatment and prevention and mental health programs.
- Wolf’s proposed first-ever dedicated funding to provide $10 million in grants for first responders and others to get Naloxone, the overdose antidote.