Wolf calls for laws to stem Pa. opioid abuse epidemic

    Gov. Tom Wolf reiterated a call Wednesday for measures to address Pennsylvania's opioid abuse crisis. He wants  doctors to use the state's prescription drug-monitoring program more effectively; improve medical school education on opioids; and limit opioid prescription overall. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

    Gov. Tom Wolf reiterated a call Wednesday for measures to address Pennsylvania's opioid abuse crisis. He wants doctors to use the state's prescription drug-monitoring program more effectively; improve medical school education on opioids; and limit opioid prescription overall. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

    In a rare event, Gov. Tom Wolf and the full General Assembly gathered in one room for a joint session Wednesday. The meeting gave Wolf a chance to call, once again, for legislation to deal with Pennsylvania’s opioid abuse crisis.

    The governor’s address Wednesday focused on several initiatives he’s brought up before, such as requiring doctors to use the state’s prescription drug-monitoring program more effectively; improving medical school education on opioids; and limiting opioid prescription overall.

    Afterward, senators repeatedly pledged to make progress in the dwindling days before the end of the legislative session. Details on which specific proposals would be addressed, however, were scarce.

    Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Bradford, has sponsored several pieces of opioid legislation. He said the Legislature’s influence on the epidemic is limited.

    “I will feel very fortunate if we can make a difference in this problem in 10 years,” he said. “It is not going to be an overnight solution by any stretch of the imagination.”

    In order to address the epidemic properly, he said, there must be a larger plan.

    “I get asked this question all the time: If we pass a certain piece of legislation, is that going to solve the problem? The answer is no,” he said. “I look at this as like a rope. It’s like building a rope. And each little strand is what makes that rope.”

    According to a Drug Enforcement Administration report, the presence of heroin or at least one opioid was reported in approximately 81percent of decedents in the 3,383 drug-related overdoses in Pennsylvania last year.

    The Senate did vote on three opioid-related bills just before the joint session, including limiting prescription of opioids to minors.

    All three of those bills have been passed on to the House.

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