Governor Wolf Declares State of Emergency for Growing Opioid Epidemic

In a 1st, Pennsylvania Declares Opioid Crisis a Disaster

It is a "first-of-its-kind" declaration in a health emergency, officials said, and the latest step in the fight against heroin and opioids. Preliminary data shared by Wolf shows 5,260 people died from drug overdoses in 2017 - the highest tally ever recorded and a almost 15-percent jump over the previous year. The Philadelphia Fire Department will launch an EMS unit this summer that's dedicated to responding specifically to drug overdoses in the city's Kensington and Fairhill neighborhoods.

"Pennsylvania now becomes the eighth state to declare such a State of Emergency". He says a synthetic opiate was responsible for most of last year's deaths.

- Waive separate licensing requirements for hospitals and emergency departments to expand access to drug and alcohol treatment.

"It's one of the best tools we have", Garbely said.

Wolf's office says the move provides wider access to the state's prescription drug monitoring program and makes it easier for medical professionals to get people into treatment more quickly. The certificates are often required as proof of residency for insurance and treatment programs and can be a surprising barrier to getting into treatment.

See NBC10's national award-winning special report on the opioid crisis, Generation Addicted, right now by tapping here.

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Asked for specifics, the source said measures that could follow would include the re-issuance of the statewide standing order permitting any Pennsylvanian with concerns about a friend or relative to obtain a dose of Naloxone for emergency use at home, or permitting ambulance crews to leave doses of the drug behind in the event that patients refuse further treatment. Currently, anyone can purchase naloxone at a Pennsylvania pharmacy.

The attorney general said he's made fighting the opioid crisis his top priority and that's resulted in arrests of, on average, more than four drug dealers a day. Often, health officials only have coroner data to rely on.

It will utilize a command center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to track progress and also enhance coordination of health and public safety agencies.

"As the devastating effects of this epidemic continue to ravage communities in Pennsylvania, today's declaration sends a clear message that more work remains to be done", he said. This declaration will bring additional resources to bear on this horrific public health emergency that has ripped apart far too many families. His administration also provided funding to create treatment centers of excellence and increase access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone, known by the brand name Narcan.

Wolf acknowledged that the move "isn't a silver bullet" to solve the crisis. Steps he announced in conjunction with the declaration ideally will help at least to mitigate the crisis in coming months.

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