HARRISBURG – Combatting Pennsylvania’s heroin and opioid crisis will be the focus of a special Telephone Town Hall, to be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 21.
State Senator Lisa Baker, (R-20), is urging state residents to take part in the event, which is part of a statewide effort to gather information on how the growing epidemic is affecting Pennsylvania and what can be done to save lives and battle addiction. It is the first of four “tele-town halls” scheduled around the state in the coming months. The tele-town hall format allows state residents to listen in, offer opinions, and even ask questions from the comfort of their own home.
Those interested in taking part can sign up ahead of time at www.acommonwealthcrisis.com to receive a phone call a few moments before the town hall meeting begins. Individuals can also sign up by texting the keyword “talkheroin” to the number 828282. Audio streaming for the tele-town hall will also be available.
“Our state legislators, law enforcement officials, public health agencies and educators are working to combat drug availability, improve drug treatment and promote drug education, but they need help and feedback,” Baker said. “This event provides a unique opportunity for state residents to join in the conversation about this Commonwealth crisis.”
The event will be hosted by Senator Gene Yaw (R-23), who chairs the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a bipartisan, bicameral legislative research agency of the General Assembly. He will be joined by experts from across the Commonwealth and other special guests to answer questions about heroin and opioid addiction and what the Legislature is doing to curb the use of these dangerous drugs.
Baker noted that nearly 3,400 drug-related overdose deaths were reported Pennsylvania in 2015, an increase of more than 23 percent over 2014. In approximately four out of five of those deaths, the presence of heroin or at least one opioid was reported.
“Reversing this trend will require a wide-ranging response from improving opioid prescribing practices and expanding access to treatment, to working with law enforcement to disrupt the heroin supply, and increasing the use of medications, such as naloxone,” Baker said. “Working together, we need to find ways to combat this health care crisis.This tele-town hall is a major step in that direction.”
Earlier this year, Baker voted to include $15 million in the state budget to combat heroin and opioid addiction, including funds for emergency addiction treatment and behavioral health services.
This funding will help open new addiction treatment centers throughout the state, known as Centers for Excellence. It will also allow the state to draw down an additional $5.4 million in federal funding for an overall total of $20.4 million to combat opioid abuse.
Baker, who represents all or portions of Luzerne, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties, also supported new laws to provide legal protection for witnesses or Good Samaritans providing medical help at the scene of an overdose and allow naloxone, a synthetic drug that blocks opiate receptors in the nervous system and known as the brand name Narcan, to be prescribed to a third party, such as a friend or family member, and administered by law enforcement and firefighters.
Guests for the September 21 tele-town hall include: Barry Denk, Director, Center for Rural Pennsylvania; Shane Scanlon, District Attorney, Lackawanna County; and Andrew Sullivan, President & CEO of Mazzitti Counseling Services, Inc., a member of Pyramid Healthcare.
Andrew M. Seder