The Republican state House spending bill passed in April threatens funding that equips first responders with the life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug Naloxone.
The bill, which passed the Republican-majority House with a strong party-line vote of 114-84, eliminates $10 million of funding for the drug provided by the executive budget to the Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
Naloxone blocks the effects of an opioid overdose and can be administered with an injection or with a nasal spray. The drug does not provide a high of any type and has no side effects.
Since first responders in Pennsylvania began carrying the drug in 2014, almost 3,000 lives have been saved, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
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“Cops become cops because they want to protect and serve their communities. I can’t think of any greater service than saving someone’s life,” Commission on Crime and Delinquency chairman, Charles Ramsey said in a statement. “It is our duty as government officials to ensure that law enforcement has the tools they need to do their job and that’s what Naloxone is.”
The decision to equip first responders with Naloxone is part of the state’s efforts to battle the opioid epidemic, which claimed nearly 2,000 lives statewide in 2015, according to the Department of Health.
Nationally, there were about 33,000 opioid-related deaths; and Pennsylvania’s 20 percent increase from 2014 to 2015 was among the highest in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Centre County’s opioid-related death statistics have followed the national and state trends. In the 2015, 17 people died from opioid overdose and 21 people died in 2016, according to Centre County Commissioner Michael Pipe.
In addition to state police Troop G, which serves Centre County, local police departments that equip officers with Naloxone include State College, Bellefonte, Ferguson Township and Patton Township police.
Pipe said the county has begun collecting data on the number of times Naloxone has been administered and how many lives have been saved. While there are no numbers in place, the drug has been used in the county.
“Naloxone saves lives, It’s working,” Pipe said. “Now is not the time to slash funding.”
Parts of Centre County are represented in the House by Rep. Rich Irvin, R-Spruce Creek; Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte; Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven; and Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township.
Irvin and Benninghoff voted in favor of the bill. Conklin and Hanna voted against the bill.
Irvin said in an email that the bill begins the process of a “government restart” by reducing spending and that he expects adjustments to the legislation will be made. Benninghoff did not respond to a request for comment about the bill.
Pennsylvania faces its largest budget shortfall since 2010.
The bill is now in the Republican-majority Senate and negotiations are ongoing. The state legislature and Wolf have until July, 1 to reach a deal.