HARRISBURG – State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) led a Capitol rally today to call for action to address Pennsylvania’s fentanyl and opioid overdose epidemic.
He was joined by fellow lawmakers, medical professionals, concerned parents and Pennsylvanians recovering from addiction.
There were more than 100,000 fentanyl and opioid related deaths nationwide in 2021, a 15% increase from 2020. Pennsylvania now ranks third in the nation for overdose deaths. Heroin and opioid overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death in Pennsylvania, even more deadly than car accidents.
“We’re here to raise awareness and seek solutions to the fentanyl and opioid crisis that’s facing our commonwealth,” Mastriano said. “We’re looking at 4,500 deaths a year in Pennsylvania. This needs to end. So many beautiful people swept away because of a mistake. The time for talking is over. We need to do something now.”
Mastriano has introduced Tyler’s Law, Senate Bill 1295, to impose stricter penalties on drug dealers who peddle fentanyl resulting in fatal overdose. Those convicted would face a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison. The bill is named after Tyler Shanafelter, who lived in Mastriano’s district. Tyler died Oct. 10, 2020, after buying from a dealer what he thought was Percocet but was instead a deadly dose of fentanyl.
Tyler’s mother, Laura Shanafelter, urged passage of Senate Bill 1295.
“I’m here today because we have a crisis in America and this crisis is killing children at record levels,” she said, noting that while Pennsylvania currently has penalties on the books to punish those who deliver drugs resulting in death, few offenders ever receive more than a few years behind bars.
“That’s like telling a family their child’s life was only worth two to three years,” she said.
Also on hand to support Mastriano’s effort was Jefferson County District Attorney Jeff Burkett.
“I have watched many drug epidemics develop, and the dawn of the fentanyl epidemic is particularly disturbing,” he said. “I support Tyler’s Law because I know the sellers of this poison know how dangerous this fentanyl is, but they continue to sell it anyway.”
Others who spoke at the rally were:
- Kara Kennemuth, executive director of Women at the Well Ministries, a nonprofit, faith-based program for women battling addiction.
- Bernadette Bowman, executive director of House of Hope, a nonprofit program for women reentering society from the justice system.
- Dr. Chaminie Wheeler, pediatrician and a child advocate.
- John Patricelli, president of Affirming Fire Ministries.
- Pastor Joseph Bishop, executive director of H.E.L.P (Hope for Every Living Person).
- Samual Bridgeford, who completed a year-long faith-based treatment program to overcome his addiction.
- Matthew Grant, who completed a year-long faith-based treatment program.
- Liz Harris, who overcame the dependency of numerous psychotic prescription drugs after completing a year-long faith-based treatment program.
Lawmakers taking part in the rally were Sen. Cris Dush (R-25), Rep. Kathy Rapp (R-65) and Rep. David Zimmerman (R-99).
In addition to Tyler’s Law, Mastriano is sponsoring Senate Bill 1152, to improve overdose mapping and response. The bill would require law enforcement and emergency medical services agencies to report all overdose incidents within 72 hours to the statewide Overdose Information Network.
“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to battling this plague on our society. We must explore all options to help save lives,” Mastriano said.
WATCH: Video to today’s rally.
CONTACT: Josh Herman