Pubdate: Mon, 07 Mar 2016
Source: Daily Times (Primos, PA)
Copyright: 2016 The Daily Times
Author: Karen Murphy
Note: Times Guest Columnist Karen Murphy is Pennsylvania's Secretary of Health.


Drug overdose deaths are claiming the lives of more Pennsylvanians 
today than even motor vehicle accidents.

In 2014, 2,500 individuals - seven people a day - succumbed to fatal 
overdoses from prescription opioids and heroin in the commonwealth, a 
staggering 20 percent increase over the previous year.

Sadly, we expect that number to grow when 2015 statistics are 
released this summer.

Drug addiction is the public health crisis of our time. In fact, it 
is the worst public health crisis I have seen in more than 30 years 
as a health professional.

We know the greatest risk factor leading to heroin addiction is a 
prior addiction to prescription opioid pain medications.

Gov. Wolf has called on the Department of Health and other state 
agencies to collaborate and develop a plan to address this 
devastating health problem.

To date, we have taken many steps to save lives from overdoses: We 
have distributed naloxone, a lifesaving drug that reverses overdose, 
to emergency medical and law enforcement personnel.

Soon all public schools will have access to naloxone at no cost.

Thanks to a standing order signed by Physician General Rachel Levine, 
all Pennsylvanians can access naloxone at their pharmacies.

We have developed opioid-prescribing guidelines for medical professionals.

We are moving toward implementing a comprehensive prescription-drug 
monitoring program.

Pennsylvania's original monitoring program is among the oldest such 
databases in the country.

The enhanced data base will provide physicians with information on 
patients' prescription histories in order to identify and treat 
potential abusers.

We recently selected a vendor to create and maintain the database, 
and expect it to be fully functional later this year.

It is our hope that this additional tool will support our ongoing 
efforts to save lives and prevent the devastation caused by this disease.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom