Opioid disaster declaration ended in Pennsylvania; health officials not worried

Opioid Crisis

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania’s opioid disaster declaration ends Wednesday after the Republican-controlled legislature chose not to extend it.

Since the governor first signed it in January 2018, he renewed the declaration 15 times, the last time being August 4. But by and large, the Department of Health says not much will change without it.

For those suffering from addiction, getting through the pandemic hasn’t been easy.

“A lot of people unfortunately relapsed and a lot of people who were in long-term recovery relapsed and even still, there are a lot of people suffering,” Jessica Miller, education and advocacy coordinator with The RASE Project said.

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Since voters gave the legislature the final say on disaster declarations, lawmakers decided to let the opioid declaration expire, which concerns those in the recovery community.

“COVID is still here which means the crisis is still here and we need to provide help to people and help them get through this,” Miller said.

Republicans say it’s time to sit down and figure out legislative solutions, though lawmakers aren’t back from their summer recess until late September.

Either way, Ray Barishansky, Deputy Secretary of Health Preparedness and Community Protection with the Department of Health, says important work will continue.

“The weekly meeting of the opioid command center, they’ll continue. The naloxone distribution, it will continue,” Barishansky said.

He says state agencies have been working well together since January 2018 to provide education and training to schools, reduce opioid prescriptions by 40% and virtually eliminate doctor shopping to name a few accomplishments.

“I want to reiterate you’re not alone. There are resources for you,” Barishansky said. “Our Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs maintains a toll-free hotline that’s confidential and it’s staffed 24/7 365.”

In a statement, Governor Wolf said “We have an obligation to support individuals desperately in need of substance use disorder services and supports. With or without a disaster declaration, this will remain a top priority of my administration.”

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