HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf told lawmakers Wednesday that now is the time to take a stand against opioid addiction, and he outlined his legislative priorities in the waning days of the fall legislative session.
In an address to a joint session of the state House and Senate, Wolf urged quick action on a package of legislation designed to combat opioid and heroin addiction. Some 3,500 Pennsylvanians lost their lives to addiction in 2015, Wolf said, noting that such a loss is like losing the population of Parkesburg, Freeland or Mifflinburg every year.
“The opioid epidemic did not start overnight, and we will not fix it overnight or even in this session,” he told lawmakers. “But by acting on these bills, and by putting other ideas on the table, we can continue to stem the tide of opioid abuse. We can make progress for the families we have met, the parents who have cried on our shoulders.”
Lawmakers gave a standing ovation after Wolf’s 15-minute speech.
Wolf’s top priorities include passage of bills to require prescribers to check the state’s prescription drug monitoring database every time they prescribe opioids and to limit opioid prescriptions to emergency room patients to seven days. Wolf has said, however, he does not know whether either provision can pass the Legislature.
The limitation on emergency prescriptions is a narrower version of what passed in Massachusetts, where lawmakers limited all doctors to a seven-day prescription limit, except in certain situations.
The Senate has six scheduled voting session days left in the two-year legislative session, which ends Nov. 30, and more addiction-related bills were on the move Wednesday.
That included the Senate’s unanimous passage of a bill limiting opioid prescriptions to minors to seven days, except in certain situations. The bill goes to the House.
One bill that is not on the shortlists of Wolf or the House and Senate Republican majorities is a Senate Democratic bill that would impose an assessment on a manufacturer’s or importer’s sale of opioids in Pennsylvania to generate an estimated $60 million a year.
The money would help foot the taxpayers’ bill for addiction treatment and anti-addiction education programs, as well as help pay for the education of addiction counselors.
“There is a desire for the pharmaceutical community to be part of the solution, and that’s really all we’re trying to do,” said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny. “Get them into the mix to help us address what they have been part of and, quite frankly, a part of creating this crisis.”
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