A Tool to Help Combat Prescription Drug Abuse
The Pittsburgh region has an epidemic on the rise: deaths due to heroin use. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Pennsylvania has the third-highest rate of heroin abuse in the country with western PA leading the state in the rate of drug overdoses. One way to combat this growing problem is to address the issue at the beginning stages. Prescription drug abusers often turn to heroin as a cheaper alternative to get a similar high. For this reason, the Pennsylvania Senate recently passed Senate Bill 1180 (SB 1180) which creates a prescription drug monitoring program to prevent what is known as “doctor shopping,” where an individual goes to multiple doctors seeking several prescriptions for the same medication.
Currently, the Attorney General’s office houses a prescription drug monitoring program that is limited to law enforcement and only applies to dispensing data of Schedule II of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which are legal drugs with the highest potential for abuse. However, this database does not allow doctors or pharmacies to run checks in real time nor does it have the ability to determine whether a person is frequently visiting a variety of physicians to obtain multiple narcotics.
Under SB 1180, the database would be expanded to monitor all drugs up to Schedule V, which includes anabolic steroids, hydrocodone, codeine, and benzodiazepines such as Xanax. The legislation also gives the Pennsylvania Department of Health access to the portion of the database that is used by physicians and pharmacists to monitor prescription distribution to prevent doctor shopping.
The drug monitoring legislation would not only provide the Commonwealth tools to prevent drug abuse but also another mechanism to prosecute crime. SB 1180 includes measures that grant law enforcement access to the database, with a court order, when investigators have reasonable suspicions or probable cause of crimes involving prescriptions. In some cases, we have certain doctors who are illegally prescribing such medication to individuals for profit and this database would help determine which doctors are misusing their practice. Although the information found in the database can be used to build a case against suspected dealers and users, the information cannot be used as evidence in court.
According to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, 47 states have some type of drug monitoring program. Furthermore, programs like the one SB 1180 would create have been so successful in other states that many Pennsylvania pharmacies are now getting out-of-state prescriptions from individuals attempting to avoid their state’s monitoring system.
Prescription drug abuse has become the fastest growing drug problem in the nation and an epidemic that needs to be addressed. Especially in western Pennsylvania where prescription drug abuse has become a life-or-death situation, SB 1180 clearly needs to be implemented so that we can prevent unnecessary deaths and go after those who supply individuals with these resources. SB 1180 now heads to the House for consideration.
Next weekend communities across the country will be holding parades, remembrance activities and other activities to honor our fallen soldiers in observance of Memorial Day, which is Monday. Originally named “Decoration Day” to honor soldiers who had died during the Civil War, the holiday was changed to “Memorial Day” in 1868 and was held each year on May 30th. When President Johnson proclaimed Memorial Day an official federal holiday in 1971, the holiday date was changed from May 30th to the last Monday in May and the day was extended to commemorate all Americans who had fallen in any war.
I encourage everyone who can to attend and support your neighborhood’s Memorial Day celebrations and remember those who have lost their lives in defense of our country. On this special day, we should also thank and recognize all the men and women who are currently serving in the military and all our veterans for the sacrifices they made and continue to make to protect our nation and our freedoms. Happy Memorial Day!
Did You Know…
Did you know that every year on Memorial Day a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. where all Americans are encouraged to pause of a minute of silence to honor and remember those who have died in service of our nation?
Today is Election Day
The 2014 Primary Election is taking place across Pennsylvania today. Polls are open from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. If you have any questions about Election Day or need any information about such things as where to vote, please view last week's edition of my News & Views or visit www.votespa.com. Don’t forget to vote!
All Senate offices will be closed on Monday, May 26th in observance of Memorial Day. My offices will re-open on Tuesday, May 27th as scheduled.
511PA Mobile App
The 511 Pennsylvania website is part of a statewide travel information service which provides reliable traffic, weather and transit information to reduce congestion and improve safety and mobility throughout Pennsylvania. All travel information can be accessed at www.511pa.com.
In addition to the website, a 511PA mobile application is now available. The application, available for iPhone and Android devices, provides hands-free and eyes-free travel alerts for the nearly 40,000 miles of roadway that PennDOT maintains, including the Pennsylvania Turnpike and select West Virginia and New Jersey roadways. Users can also check the application before they travel to view traffic speeds, cameras and travel alerts.
For more information on this mobile app and all information available through the 511PA system, please click here.
Get Outdoors PA
Outdoor enthusiasts can visit www.getoutdoorspa.org to view outdoor activities, events and places to visit throughout the Commonwealth. Get Outdoors PA connects citizens with outdoor recreation activities in an effort to increase appreciation and use of parks, forests and public spaces, while imparting a message of environmental stewardship and healthy living.
To help people become better connected to the outdoors and to help grow their appreciation of the Commonwealth’s special places, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) began expanding its recreational programs and events in state parks and forests through Get Outdoors PA in 2004. The Get Outdoors program has offered thousands of recreation programs in state parks and forests and tens of thousands of people have participated in programs including: backpacking; biking; birding; camping; cross-country skiing; fishing; hiking; paddling; wilderness survival; and more. Today, DCNR, and their partners will join with outfitters and providers to offer high quality, outdoor recreation programs in communities, in addition to already expansive programming in state parks and forests.
Future of Public Transportation
The Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) is inviting transit riders and local citizens to share their vision for the future of public transportation in our region through PAT’s new community engagement website. Forward Thinking, located at http://paac.mindmixer.com/ presents a variety of questions on topics including capital projects, barriers to transit use, and accessibility for seniors and riders with disabilities. Participants can share their thoughts or weigh in on ideas submitted by others. The site will help PAT collect ideas from riders and local citizens and collectively will assist in generating a vision of a modern transit system throughout Allegheny County.
Members of the Port Authority’s Board of Directors, CEO Ellen McLean, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald will be participating in the discussion and listening to participants’ thoughts and suggestions. The site will be active through at least June 13th. If interested in participating in this online forum, please visit http://paac.mindmixer.com/ to get started.
American Stroke Awareness Month
May is American Stroke Month, an annual campaign by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association to increase stroke awareness and to educate everyone that stroke is largely preventable, treatable and beatable. Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the United States but many do not think of stroke as a major health concern. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association encourages anyone who may think they are having a stroke to call 9-1-1 immediately and offers a way to recognize symptoms, F.A.S.T.
Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is the sentence repeated correctly?
Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you know when the first symptoms appeared.
For more information on how to prevent and treat a stroke, including treatments and risk factors, please visit www.strokeassociation.org.
Last Saturday, Bellevue Borough celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Andrew Bayne Memorial Library. Amanda Bayne Ralph and Jane Bayne Teece bequeathed their homestead and the four surrounding acres to Bellevue Borough to be used as a library and park which was named after their father. In May 1914, a library committee announced the opening of two rooms in the home as a library. Today, the library houses more than 22,000 titles, magazine subscriptions, reference materials, Internet access, and a teen room.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216