Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has declared the heroin and opioid epidemic a statewide disaster emergency to enhance state response, increase access to treatment and save lives.

The declaration is the first-of-its-kind for a public health emergency in Pennsylvania.

It will suspend regulations that hinder a person's access to addiction care.

A command center that combines the forces of more than nine government agencies will be set up at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to track progress and improve the coordination of health and public safety agencies.

“I am taking this step to protect Pennsylvanians from this looming public health crisis," said Gov. Wolf. "I am using every tool at my disposal to get those suffering from substance use disorders into treatment, save more lives, and improve response coordination.”

The state of emergency will last 90 days to give state agencies and law enforcement more flexibility to combat the crisis.

There are 13 key initiatives that are part of the declaration. They include improving coordination and data collection to bolster state and local response; improving tools for families, first responders and others to save lives; and speeding up and expanding access to treatment.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) released the following statement:

“I commend Governor Wolf for issuing a Statewide Disaster Declaration for the heroin and opioid abuse crisis. This declaration will bring additional resources to bear on this horrific public health emergency that has ripped apart far too many families.

Now, the federal government must do its part so that states don’t have to deal with this alone. I have introduced legislation that would invest $45 billion in programs that combat opioid addiction and provide treatment for those who need it. Congressional Republicans should give sustained focus to this problem and take up my legislation. 

Thus far, the Administration and congressional Republicans have advocated steps, like decimating Medicaid, that would worsen the opioid public health emergency and reduce access to treatment. During the health care debate, Republicans in Washington said they support $45 billion in funding. It’s far past time the federal government stop paying lip service to the opioid crisis and start investing in treatment and prevention.” 

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) is also weighing in:

“The opioid and heroin crisis has rightfully drawn bipartisan attention in Congress and all levels of government, with President Trump having already taken the extraordinary step of declaring a nationwide public health emergency. 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.

“Additional action must include implementing my already-passed legislation, the Stopping Medication Abuse and Protecting Seniors Act, which would reduce overutilization and diversion of powerful prescription opioids. We also need to keep dangerous substances, like deadly fentanyl, out of the United States by cutting off production at the source. I look forward to continuing my work on this issue with colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”

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