Pennsylvania Senators Advocate New Bills to Combat Opioid Addiction Crisis

HARRISBURG – Senate Republicans highlighted a package of bills today to combat the state’s heroin and opioid epidemic by improving prescription drug monitoring, limiting opioid prescriptions, targeting drug dealers and taking other steps to limit the damage inflicted by the addiction crisis in Pennsylvania communities.

The package includes:

Senate Bill 93, sponsored by Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46), which cracks down on drug dealers by creating a new statute establishing a second degree felony for the delivery or distribution of an illicit drug that results in “serious bodily injury” to the user.

Senate Bill 112, sponsored by Senator Gene Yaw (R-23), which seeks to prevent addiction stemming from opioid prescriptions by limiting the prescription for a controlled substance containing an opioid to seven-days unless there is a medical emergency that puts the patients’ health or safety at risk.

Senate Bill 118, sponsored by Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35), which will help break the cycle of addiction by creating a Recovery-to-Work pilot program to connect individuals in recovery with occupations through local workforce development boards

Senate Bill 223, sponsored by Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-28), which will ensure more overdose victims get timely, life-saving treatment in the future by allowing providers to leave a dose package of naloxone with an on-scene caregiver of a patient who overdosed on opioids.

Senate Bill 432, sponsored by Phillips-Hill, which will improve prescription drug monitoring by allowing Medicaid Managed Care Organizations to have access to the information in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

Senate Bill 572, sponsored by Senator Ryan P. Aument (R-36), which will help identify individuals in need of treatment and prevent prescription drug diversion by requiring new patients who need a prescribed opioid regimen to enter into treatment agreements with a prescriber.

Senate Bill 675, sponsored by Senator Michele Brooks (R-50), which will help prevent the abuse of the addiction treatment drug buprenorphine by requiring certification of office-based prescribers and limiting its use.

The package of bills is a continuation of bipartisan efforts led by Senate Republicans over the past six years to combat the opioid epidemic.

Beginning in 2014, lawmakers joined the Center for Rural Pennsylvania for a series of hearings to study the problem and identify solutions. As a result of these hearings, new laws were created to limit prescriptions, improve and expand addiction treatment, and improve public education about the dangers of drug abuse.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, opioid drug deaths statewide rose steadily in the early part of the decade before peaking at 5,559 in 2017. The number of opioid drug deaths finally declined in 2018 to 4,267. At the same time, opioid prescriptions in Pennsylvania declined by 14 percent between 2016 and 2017.

Remarks by Sen. Michele Brooks
June 18, 2019

Good Afternoon. I appreciate the opportunity to join my colleagues here today to discuss a package of bills that will further curtail the tragedies of the opioid crisis that are affecting so many families and friends across Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 675 will provide the much-needed oversight to try and prevent the misuse of medications prescribed in treating individuals with opioid addiction.

As we continue to look for ways to fight the current opioid crisis, our focus has been on increasing funding and increasing patient access to treatment, BUT we have ignored the growing need for additional state oversight of that treatment.

Although Suboxone can be a treatment for opioid addiction, it contains buprenorphine, which, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is an opioid, which can be addicting.

More and more, we are hearing about Suboxone incidents from across the State.

From the West, where the founder of an opioid treatment facility pleaded guilty to health care fraud after submitting claims to Medicaid and Medicare to cover the costs of these unlawfully prescribed drugs to others submitting illegal prescriptions for more than 18,000 doses of buprenorphine.

–the Southeast, where a doctor admitted to earning $5 million through the illegal sale of Suboxone and Klonopin,

— the Northeast, where a precious child ingested Suboxone strips that were hidden in a Dora the Explorer Book,

–Central Pennsylvania, where a State Trooper lost his life because Suboxone pills were traded for a firearm.

We need to end this abuse and diversion of Suboxone and that’s exactly what Senate Bill 675 will help do, and I thank my colleagues for their support of this legislation.

While we have a responsibility to ensure that treatment is available to those who need it, we also have an added obligation to provide whatever additional State oversight is necessary to prevent future incidents of abuse and diversion.

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