HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Governor Tom Wolf announced Wednesday the opioid disaster declaration he put into place in 2018 will end on Wednesday, after the General Assembly declined coming back to Harrisburg to extend it.
The declaration was signed in January 2018 after a record-breaking number of deaths in the state in 2017 from opioid and substance abuse. The declaration was put in place to assist residents in fighting the epidemic, such as recovery programs and training first responders on using naloxone.
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The governor renewed the declaration 15 times, including earlier this month. But due to the legislature having power in renewing declarations, they would’ve had to come back to the Capitol to renew and refused.
“The disaster declaration allowed us to work together more effectively to reduce overdose deaths and help Pennsylvanians obtain treatment and pursue recovery,” Gov. Wolf said. “We made a lot of progress before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, both in putting improved systems in place to help Pennsylvanians and in reducing overdose deaths in the commonwealth by nearly twenty percent from 2017 to 2020.”
The governor mentions the COVID-19 pandemic was why he wanted to renew the declaration again when opioid-related deaths skyrocketed in 2020.
“Unfortunately, the isolation and disruption caused by the pandemic over the past year and a half has also caused a heartbreaking increase in substance use disorder and overdose deaths. Now more than ever, it is essential that we continue our efforts to fight stigma, increase access to treatment and reduce deaths related to substance use disorder. That’s why I asked the General Assembly to return to Harrisburg in August to renew this disaster declaration,” Gov. Wolf said.
Even with the ending, the governor and his administration promise to keep the crisis at the forefront.
“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,” Gov. Wolf said.