HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — On Tuesday, Jan. 26, members of the Wolf Administration provided an update on prescribing and overdose trends up until Oct. 2020, and highlighted the accomplishments of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We are approaching one year of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and many Pennsylvanians are struggling with the disease of addiction at the same time,” Deputy Secretary of Health Preparedness and Community Protection and Opioid Command Center Incident Commander Ray Barishansky said.

In 2016, the Wolf Administration launched the PDMP, and since then there has been a 29.7% increase in buprenorphine prescriptions. At the same time, there has been nearly a 60% decrease in individuals who receive high-dosage opioid medications and a reduction in the number of people who receive dangerous drug combinations.

Finally, the Wolf Administration reported a 36.6% reduction in opioid prescribing overall.

However, while the PDMP saw successes over the past five years, the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania is still a work in progress. And, as Barishansky explained, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in additional challenges.

Despite a decrease in all-cause emergency department visits during the coronavirus pandemic, opioid overdose-related emergency visits showed a slight increase in 2020.

Compared to January through July in 2019, overdose trends showed that accidental and undetermined drug-overdose-related deaths were higher for each of those corresponding months in 2020.

“We know that a public health pandemic at the same time as the opioid epidemic has made for a challenging year,” Barishansky said. “It is up to all of us to come alongside those who are struggling with the disease of addiction and to offer them our support. Treatment works, and recovery is possible.”

The Wolf Administration warned that the 2020 counts for overdose deaths were expected to increase further up until the end of the year.

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs maintains a toll-free, 24/7 helpline that connects callers looking for treatment options for themselves or a loved one to resources in their community. You can reach the Get Help Now helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).