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Allegheny County officials seek feds' help fighting opioid epidemic

Megan Guza
| Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, 4:42 p.m.
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Oxycodone pain pills

Allegheny County health officials said Wednesday they are encouraged by a preliminary report put out this week by President Trump's drug commission and hope to see more federal resources put toward combating the opioid epidemic locally.

In its report issued Monday, the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis urged Trump to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act.

The report noted that approximately 142 people across the country die each day from drug overdoses. It said the death toll is “equal to September 11th every three weeks.”

Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker and Human Services Director Marc Cherna released a joint statement applauding the commission's efforts.

“Here in Allegheny County, we have recognized the gravity of the opioid epidemic having lost over 600 persons from opioid overdoses in the last year alone,” Hacker and Cherna said in the statement.

“These recommendations are ideas that we have been working on locally with limited resources,” the officials said. “National action and resources aimed at the local level would be appreciated, and useful in our community.”

Other recommendations by the drug commission included equipping all law enforcement officers with the overdose reversal drug naloxone; increasing the use of medications approved for treating opioid addiction in prisons; and requiring state prescription-drug monitoring programs to share data by July 1, 2018.

Monday's report came a couple of weeks after a group of U.S. Senate Democrats wrote to the acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy urging him to “consider important initiatives that could help deliver faster relief to millions of Americans.”

The signees urged the Trump administration to do more to combat the opioid epidemic, including implementing recommendations put forward by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in a November 2016 report.

The group criticized an administration budget proposal that would cut nearly $400 million in funding for drug and mental health programs and the Department of Justice's escalating focus on treating drug addiction as a criminal justice issue

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380,8519, mguza@tribweb.com or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.

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