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Senator Casey supports substance abuse bills

Renatta Signorini
| Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, 10:42 p.m.

U.S. Sen. Robert Casey is getting the word out about two Senate bills that would increase funding for substance abuse prevention and treatment and allow physicians to prescribe medication for opioid addiction to more people.

He said in a conference call Thursday that there's a lot the federal government can do to assist states and communities with combating a growing drug epidemic.

“We can't stand by and wait while the disease of addiction cuts promising lives short,” the Democrat from Scranton said.

He supports bills sponsored by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., that were introduced in May and are pending before a Senate committee.

The first, known as the TREAT Act, would increase the number of patients to whom a medical practitioner could prescribe detoxification drugs from 30 to 100 a year. After one year, the practitioner could apply to prescribe the drugs to an unlimited number of patients under defined conditions, including participating in a state prescription drug monitoring program.

The second, called the Treatment and Recovery Investment Act, would provide grants to improve the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders, Casey said.

Westmoreland County has been impacted by the national epidemic, as an increasing number of people have died from overdoses and more incoming prison inmates need detoxification from drug or alcohol addictions.

In July, 68 percent of incoming inmates at the county jail needed help weaning off of drugs or alcohol, compared with 42 percent in April 2014, records show.

In 2015, 80 people have died from drug overdoses, according to the most recent statistics from the Westmoreland County coroner. An additional 19 deaths are being investigated as possible overdoses.

In 2014, 87 died from drug overdoses, setting a record from the previous year, when 86 died. In 2013, 78 people died from drug overdoses.

According to a state coroners association 2014 report, the deaths of at least 2,489 in Pennsylvania that year were drug-related.

Casey said he hopes lawmakers will act on the bills in coming months.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or Staff writer Kari Andren contributed to this report.

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