President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency on Thursday.
Here’s how some Pennsylvania leaders — at the federal and state levels — reacted:
Governor Tom Wolf
“President Trump’s decision to declare the opioid epidemic a public health emergency is an important step, but this is only the beginning,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “The president’s repeated calls to dismantle the Affordable Care Act puts the very Americans he aims to help through this declaration in jeopardy. My administration will continue to put our full effort into fighting this crisis, and I hope the Trump Administration will do the same.
“Without a commitment to fund the crisis in specific ways, it’s difficult to say how much this declaration can do. While an awareness of this critical health emergency is important, an increased availability of grant money would help. Every effort to fund treatment, including medication-assisted treatment options, should be explored.
“Federal, state, and local governments must work together to quell the growing impact of the heroin and opioid epidemic on American families and communities and ensure that the people we serve can access evidence-based treatment programs that make recovery possible.
“The primary recommendations the President’s commission made in August track closely with the progress we’ve made in Pennsylvania, including increasing treatment options through Medicaid and Medication-Assisted Treatment, expanding opioid education and training for health professionals, and establishing a Naloxone standing order.
“In Pennsylvania, our efforts to save lives and get people into treatment are making a difference. With 13 overdose deaths each day, a sense of urgency is vital and will continue. That’s why Pennsylvania has a standing order for naloxone, why we instituted a 24-hour help line that is connecting people in need to treatment, why we’ve used CURES grant funding to fund community medication-assisted treatment programs, why we’ve opened 45 Centers of Excellence to provide community-based, focused treatment across the commonwealth, and why I have asked the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass pending legislation that will aid in combatting this crisis.
“I urge President Trump to consider initiatives that can have a more immediate positive impact on this crisis. Too many families are being torn apart by this epidemic and it is causing real pain for law enforcement, health professionals and all of our communities. In Pennsylvania, we’ve seen that this epidemic does not see Republican or Democrat, and neither should our national response.”
Attorney General Josh Shapiro
“The declaration by President Trump that the national opioid epidemic is a public health emergency is a step in the right direction for our country. As this epidemic claimed the lives of over 64,000 Americans and more than 4,600 Pennsylvanians last year, we need the federal government’s help and support on multiple fronts. Today is the beginning.
“In Pennsylvania, I’ve led an effort of 39 Attorneys General and the National Association of Attorneys General that is urging Congress to change a federal law to allow more patients addicted to drugs to receive treatment in residential facilities. This IMD exclusion law, which bars Medicaid reimbursement in facilities with more than 16 beds, harms our efforts to help more people into treatment for addiction. The law must be changed.
“We are hopeful the President’s declaration of a public health emergency and acknowledgement of the IMD exclusion problem will move the federal government toward eliminating this antiquated federal law for addiction treatment.
“The President’s announcement today doesn’t carry with it any promise of meaningful additional funding, which is essential as we fight this crisis in Pennsylvania and across the country. But it is, at least, a recognition by the administration that this epidemic, devastating so many Americans and Pennsylvania families, is a national crisis demanding a coordinated response from the federal government and all the states.
“There is more work that needs to be done, in Pennsylvania and nationally, to end this epidemic. The president’s statement and declaration today, while overdue, is welcome news in our Commonwealth. We’ll continue our own work undeterred. “
U.S. Senator Bob Casey (in a series of tweets)
“While I commend the Administration for taking this step, the federal government must do more than issue declarations. Just yesterday, I introduced legislation, the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act. This bill would invest $45 billion over 10 years to fund opioid treatment and prevention, as well as research on pain and addiction. In order to help families suffering from the opioid crisis, there must be substantial investments in treatment and increased access to care.
“Since March, I’ve held nine meetings across Pennsylvania to discuss the need to address opioid dependence. Good treatment, over a sustained period of time, gives those with an opioid dependence the best shot at overcoming this challenge.
“The GOP must also stop pursuing health care schemes to decimate Medicaid, which would deny Americans’ coverage for substance use disorders. The opioid epidemic is a national emergency and we must respond with real investments in treatment.”
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey
“The President’s declaration of a Nationwide Public Health Emergency is a forceful reminder that the drug addiction and opioid abuse epidemic has a scale and breadth unmatched in recent history. Last year, drug overdose deaths increased by 40 percent in Pennsylvania.
“Congress has taken recent bipartisan action with the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act. But we must take further steps including implementing my already-passed legislation, the Stopping Medication Abuse and Protecting Seniors Act, which would reduce overutilization and diversion of prescription opioids. We also need to keep dangerous substances, like deadly fentanyl, out of the United States by cutting off production at the source.
“I am dedicated to reversing the devastating tide of addiction and abuse and I commend the Trump administration for addressing this national epidemic.”
U.S. House Rep. Lou Barletta
“The opioid epidemic is ravaging our communities, and I’m encouraged by President Trump’s actions to treat this ongoing crisis with the attention and urgency it deserves. This won’t be solved overnight, but we have taken significant steps to get the crisis under control.
“As a conferee on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, we worked across the aisle with colleagues to build bridges for solutions. It’s been a heartbreaking situation for my constituents. During some of my opioid forums, tragic personal stories have painted a very dire situation. Giving the folks who may be struggling with addiction hope for a better tomorrow will save tens of thousands of families from the heartache and loss posed by this tragedy.”