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Wolf renews opioid disaster declaration, eyes legislation to declare public health emergency

Megan Guza
| Wednesday, April 4, 2018, 3:18 p.m.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf

Citing the success of several initiatives in the first 90 days, Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday renewed his statewide opioid disaster declaration and announced that legislation is in progress that would allow the state Secretary of Health to declare the epidemic a public health emergency.

"We have made real progress during the disaster declaration to stem the tide of this epidemic and provide better resources and coordination for those on the front lines," Wolf said in a statement. "But it is critical that we keep building on our efforts at prevention, rescue and treatment."

The original 90-day declaration, signed Jan. 10, allowed the state to respond to the opioid epidemic as it would a natural disaster, cutting away some red tape to make way for 13 initiatives aimed at combating the epidemic.

Those initiatives included a standing order for a naloxone leave-behind program. Several areas, including Pittsburgh, have already begun the program in which paramedics responding to an overdose call can leave behind the overdose reversal drug.

The declaration also waived fees for birth certificates for those seeking addiction treatment, allowing them faster and easier access. Wolf said 80 birth certificates — nearly one a day — have been expedited since the declaration.

Part of Wednesday's announcement included the introduction of legislation that would allow Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine to declare opioid abuse a public health emergency.

Declaring opioid abuse a public health emergency would allow the Department of Health to waive or create new regulations and public notices for tracking and treating the epidemic.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.

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