Pa., U.S., working to solve opioid crisis

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey AP

Washington and Harrisburg could be on the same page with the opioid crisis.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, wants Congress to pass the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act.

The bill was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and introduced Oct. 25. The bill would put $4.5 billion into states annually for drug programs for 10 years.

“This epidemic knows no bounds. Whether impacting children, parents or grandparents, the opioid crisis continues to grow in its intensity and its harm,” Casey said. “In order to effectively address the problem, we must continue to commit resources to our states and our local communities. In my recent travels across Pennsylvania, to communities both large and small, one of the most common concerns in fighting the opioid crisis is the need for more support for local resources. This legislation incorporates bipartisan, commonsense principles to make sure we’re providing assistance where it is most needed.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Pennsylvania ranks sixth in the nation for drug overdoses with 26.3 per 100,000 people in 2015, the last year with hard statistics. Look at the total number of deaths, however, and Pennsylvania’s 3,264 takes the bronze behind first-place California, with 4,659, and runner-up Ohio with 3,310.

“In Pennsylvania, our efforts to save lives and get people into treatment are making a difference but there is still more work do to and the federal government must be a bigger partner,” Wolf said in a statement. “With 13 overdose deaths each day, a sense of urgency is vital and will continue. Washington must do more to give states resources and tools to get people help. We know that treatment works, and this legislation would pump important resources into states like Pennsylvania battling this scourge.”

Casey’s bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Casey sits on that committee. Committee members Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) are among 18 co-sponsors. Other co-sponsors are all Democrats, with the exception of Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce