Official: without more treatment, heroin won’t be last drug epidemic for Pa.

    A top Pennsylvania official said heroin won’t be the last drug scourge to hit the commonwealth unless addiction treatment improves.

    Gary Tennis, secretary of the state’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, was among many state officials fielding question after question on the heroin epidemic gripping Pennsylvania. The acting state police commissioner and attorney general were also encouraged to share their ideas for combatting the growing number of heroin overdoses.

    Tennis said the most glaring shortcoming in Pennsylvania is available addiction treatment.

    “We know, historically, that treatment has been underfunded,” said Tennis, adding that although the state offers more than national average in treatment options, its system is still inadequate.  

    “The fact that we don’t yet have an infrastructure in place to treat the disease leaves us vulnerable to one epidemic after the other… whether it be with methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, or other drugs,” said Tennis. “Until our system is ramped up and we’re fully treating this disease, we will continue to see these epidemics come and go.”

    The latest heroin epidemic that has seized the country is widely said to have roots in the abundance of prescription opioids. Tennis said in the past year, his agency has helped develop tighter prescribing guidelines that have been adopted by the major health care providers in the commonwealth. He said such efforts have had an impact in other states.

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

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal