HARRISBURG – The Senate approved a package of bills this week to combat the state’s heroin and opioid epidemic by improving prescription drug monitoring, limiting opioid prescriptions, targeting drug dealers and taking other steps to limit the damage inflicted by the addiction crisis in Pennsylvania communities, according to Senator Doug Mastriano (R-33), who supported the package.
“The bipartisan legislative initiatives will go a long way toward educating the public, effectively treating those with addiction, and ending the practice of overprescribing,” said Mastriano. “The heroin and opioid epidemic has destroyed too many lives and left countless others with the scars of addiction that can last a lifetime. These bills reflect a continued commitment by Senate Republicans to save lives and develop new laws and policies to confront a health care crisis of epidemic proportions.”
The bills approved by the Senate include:
- Senate Bill 93, which creates a new statute establishing a second degree felony for the delivery or distribution of an illicit drug that results in “serious bodily injury” to the user.
- Senate Bill 112, which limits the prescription for a controlled substance containing an opioid to seven-days unless there is a medical emergency that puts the patients’ health or safety at risk.
- Senate Bill 118, which creates a Recovery-to-Work pilot program to connect individuals in recovery with occupations through local workforce development boards.
- Senate Bill 223, which allows providers to leave a dose package of naloxone with an on-scene caregiver of a patient who overdosed on opioids.
- Senate Bill 432, which allows Medicaid Managed Care Organizations to have access to the information in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
- Senate Bill 572, which requires new patients who need a prescribed opioid regimen to enter into treatment agreements with a prescriber.
- Senate Bill 675, which requires certification of office-based prescribers of the addiction treatment drug buprenorphine, and limits the drug’s use.
Senator Mastriano noted that the package of bills is a continuation of bipartisan efforts led by Senate Republicans over the past six years to combat the opioid epidemic.
Beginning in 2014, lawmakers joined the Center for Rural Pennsylvania for a series of hearings to study the problem and identify solutions. As a result of these hearings, new laws were created to limit prescriptions, improve and expand addiction treatment, and improve public education about the dangers of drug abuse.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, opioid drug deaths statewide rose steadily in the early part of the decade before peaking at 5,559 in 2017. The number of opioid drug deaths finally declined in 2018 to 4,267. At the same time, opioid prescriptions in Pennsylvania declined by 14 percent between 2016 and 2017.
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