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Letter to the Editor
Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Regarding the news story “Excela Health ERs in Westmoreland treat 400 drug ODs in 2012” (Feb. 9 and Drug overdose and abuse in Pennsylvania is a public health problem that is being ignored at the state level. As a health-care professional, I understand why the Excela ER physician offers the patient who overdoses information on inpatient and outpatient treatment centers instead of admitting the patient. He practices in Pennsylvania.

It is also sad that the first line of defense for a drug overdose is the paramedic giving CPR and Narcan. Pennsylvania is ranked 10th in the U.S. for drug overdoses. The Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Act is not working.

The amended Mississippi Code of 1972 addresses emergency involuntary commitment of alcohol and drug addicts by physicians. In 2003, Kentucky passed the Matthew Casey Wethington Act for Substance Abuse Intervention, which allows family members, friends or anyone else to petition a Kentucky court for involuntary commitment of drug abusers. As of March 22, 2012, Ohio had its first statutory procedure in effect for involuntary hospitalization and treatment of addicted alcohol and drug abusers.

Our society has separated drug and alcohol addiction from mental-health illnesses and medical illnesses. This illness remains in limbo until our state provides adequate statutes to support health care providers and grieving families.

Anita L. Leonard


The writer is a registered nurse with a master's degree in public health.

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