Gov. Tom Wolf has announced in a press release that opioid drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania fell last year.
Wolf, citing data from the Drug Enforcement Agency, said opioid overdose deaths were 18 percent lower in 2018 than in 2017.
“This is a good piece of news in our ongoing fight,” Wolf said. “However, new challenges, including the increase of overdoses from other drugs in the past few weeks and months, mean that our work must continue to address the devastating effects of substance use disorder.”
Wolf said that the commonwealth remains “laser-focused” on addressing substance use disorder through prevention, rescue efforts and treatment.
A statewide naloxone giveaway in December 2018 focused on rescue and received significant participation, putting more than 5,000 free kits into the hands of Pennsylvanians.
Naloxone is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose.
The Department of Health has been working to plan additional giveaway events.
Sep. 8 and 25 will be used for statewide distribution of naloxone kits with additional details to be announced in the coming weeks.
“The success of the first statewide naloxone giveaway day and the fact that we cannot treat someone for opioid use disorder if they are dead, prompted the department to plan two additional giveaway events to get even more of this life-saving medication into the hands of people across the state,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, secretary of health for the state of Pennsylvania.
Levine also announced that the commonwealth has awarded 92 individuals with nearly $4.8 million in federal funding through Pennsylvania’s Substance Use Disorder Loan Repayment Program.
The program provides funding to repay education loans for health care providers who are providing medical and behavioral health care and treatment for substance use disorder and opioid addiction in areas where there is high opioid use and where there are shortages of health care practitioners.
A total of $1.9 million was awarded to 34 medical care practitioners. 58 behavioral and mental health practitioners received a total of $2.9 million in awards.
The funding comes from a $55.9 million Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant meant to help states increase access to medication-assisted treatment of opioid use disorder and reduce opioid overdose related deaths.