Lehigh Valley residents recently participated in a special Southeastern Pennsylvania telephone town hall meeting concerning Pennsylvania’s heroin and opioid epidemic, according to Senator Pat Browne, one of the call’s hosts.
This was the third of five regional tele-towns halls, which are part of a statewide effort to gather information on how the growing epidemic is affecting Pennsylvania and its citizens and what can be done to save lives. Listeners heard from experts from across the Commonwealth, who discussed the current crisis and answered questions from callers. Over 11,500 individuals tuned into the call.
“I am pleased that so many families and residents chose to join the call and learn information on how to help combat the heroin and opioid crisis that our Commonwealth is currently facing,” Senator Browne said. “Without a doubt, events like this not only bring crucial awareness to this crisis, but also provide real information to individuals who can make a difference and help to prevent tragic loss of lives.”
Additional telephone town halls are scheduled for February 7th, for the South Central region, and March 21st, for Northwest and Central regions.
Nearly 3,400 drug-related overdose deaths were reported in Pennsylvania in 2015, an increase of more than 23 percent over 2014. In approximately four out of five of those deaths, the presence of heroin or at least one opioid was reported.
“The Pennsylvania General Assembly has taken important steps to combat this issue, including increased appropriations funding and new laws aimed to help protect the public,” Senator Browne said. “As we enter the new legislative session, I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue to find ways to fight this epidemic and help individuals struggling with it.”
During the 2015-2016 legislative session, the General Assembly voted to include $15 million in the state budget to combat heroin and opioid abuse, including funds for emergency treatment and behavioral health services. This funding will help open new “Centers for Excellence” treatment centers throughout the state. It will also allow the state to draw down an additional $5.4 million in federal funding for an overall total of $20.4 million to fight and treat opioid abuse.
New laws were also passed to provide legal protection for witnesses or Good Samaritans providing medical help at the scene of an overdose and to allow naloxone (brand name Narcan), a synthetic drug that blocks opiate receptors in the nervous system, to be prescribed to a third party, such as a friend or family member, and administered by law enforcement and firefighters.
For audio of the Southeastern and previous tele-town halls in other Pennsylvania regions, or for more information on how the General Assembly is combating the heroin and opioid crisis, visit www.acommonwealthcrisis.com.
Contact: Matt Moyer (610) 821-8468