Gov. Tom Wolf recently signed the 15th renewal of his January 2018 opioid disaster declaration to help the state fight the opioid and heroin epidemic. This opioid disaster declaration will last 21 days, or until the General Assembly takes action to extend the declaration by Aug. 26.
On July 30, Wolf sent a letter to the General Assembly stating his intention to renew the declaration for the 15th time and asking leaders to consider returning to Harrisburg to extend the disaster declaration to allow for a renewal of collective efforts around the opioid crisis. The letter detailed the progress made under the opioid disaster declaration and noted those remaining programs that would be impacted by an expiration of the declaration, in particular information shared with other state agencies through the administration’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
“As we see a spike in overdoses throughout the commonwealth, there has never been a more important time to concentrate our efforts in helping individuals with substance use disorder, especially opioid use disorder,” said Wolf. “This ongoing public health crisis has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It takes coordination from staff and resources to support and sustain our response across Pennsylvania.”
The preliminary numbers show there have been 5,063 drug overdose deaths reported for 2020 through July 21, 2021. In comparison, Pennsylvania saw 4,458 drug overdose deaths in 2019. The update reveals that 2020 ranks second to 2017, in which there were 5,403 overdose deaths, the most overdose deaths in a single year since the opioid epidemic began. Additional overdose death reports from 2020 are expected to trickle in over the next couple of months.
“Each of these numbers represent our family members, loved ones, and neighbors,” said Wolf. “They deserve every effort to ensure access to quality treatment and recovery supports to give them the best opportunity to have sustained recovery from substance use disorder.”