New Pa. drug tracker hits a million-dollar snag

    At first, the senator thought she had made a mistake.

    Legislation to expand Pennsylvania’s prescription drug-monitoring system had been signed by the governor last fall. Powerful painkillers and other drugs would be tracked by the new and improved system. Doctors and law enforcement would be able to check the database for suspicious prescription activity.

    The changes were slated to cost $1 million. But the full sum hadn’t been incorporated into the state budget.

    “Since I’m not a mathematical genius, I went to our appropriations people and said, ‘Look through this, I’m missing it,'” said Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland. “And they said, ‘No you’re not missing it. It’s not there.'”

    That was about two weeks ago, Vance said. She’s still not sure how the appropriation got lost in the shuffle. The database legislation passed easily in the House and Senate and then-Gov. Tom Corbett had talked up the issue to the media.

    “This was something that the earlier administration supported,” said Vance. “Usually when it’s something the administration thinks is important, they make sure that the money’s in place.”

    The expanded database was slated to go live in June.

    “Hopefully, we will have already found the money by that time,” said Vance. “I’m not willing to give up at this point.”

    About $300,000 of the projected cost of the changes is supposed to come from the state attorney general’s office. Vance said that funding hasn’t yet been transferred.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.