Declaration of a Statewide Disaster Emergency on the Heroin and Opioid Epidemic
Governor Wolf has declared a statewide disaster emergency on the heroin and opioid epidemic which will enhance the state response as well as increase access to treatment with the ultimate goal of saving lives. The declaration is the first-of-its kind for the commonwealth with state and local officials applauding the governor for this move since Pennsylvania has struggled with the opioid crisis more so than many other states. The preliminary count of opioid-related deaths for 2017 was over 5,200 individuals. The commonwealth now becomes the eighth state in the country to take this necessary step.
The statewide disaster emergency will remain in effect for 90 days, a time frame set by the state Constitution, and will allow Pennsylvania officials to temporarily override any current rules or regulations they perceive as hampering the commonwealth’s ability to address the opioid epidemic. This will open the door to a number of policy changes that have been sought by officials and organizations in the state’s hardest-hit areas.
The 13 key initiatives that fall under the Declaration of a Statewide Disaster Emergency include:
Enhancing Coordination and Data Collection to Bolster State and Local Response
- Establishes an Opioid Command Center located at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), which will house the Unified Opioid Coordination Group that will meet weekly during the disaster declaration to monitor implementation and progress of the initiatives in the declaration.
- Expands Access to Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to Other Commonwealth Entities for Clinical Decision-Making Purposes to improve treatment outcomes and better monitor compliance among prescribers.
Since 2016, 90,000 physicians have conducted more than 1 million searches on the PDMP.
- Adds Overdoses and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) as Reportable Conditions in Title 28, Chapter 27 to the Department of Health in order to increase data collection and improve outcomes in both areas.
- Authorizes Emergency Purchase for Hotline Contract with Current Vendor, giving the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs additional emergency purchase authorization to allow them to enter into a contract with the current drug and alcohol hotline vendor to ensure uninterrupted services.
To date, the 24/7 helpline, 1-800-662-HELP, has received more than 18,000 calls to connect those suffering from substance use disorder with treatment.
Improving Tools for Families, First Responders, and Others to Save Lives
- Enables Emergency Medical Services providers to leave behind naloxone, a medicine that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses, when they leave a situation where a person is believed to likely overdose in the future. An existing regulation prevented this from happening.
Officials have credited naloxone with saving more than 5,000 overdose situations.
- Allows Pharmacists to Partner with Other Organizations to Increase Access to Naloxone, including prisons and treatment programs.
- Allows for the immediate temporary rescheduling of all fentanyl derivatives to align with the federal DEA schedule while working toward permanent rescheduling.
- Authorizes emergency purchasing which will expand the advanced body scanner pilot program currently in place at Wernersville. This is used on re-entrants returning to the facility and would prevent the program from lapsing.
Speeding Up and Expanding Access to Treatment
- Waive the face-to-face physician requirement for Narcotic Treatment Program (NTP) admissions to allow initial intake review by a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner (CRNP) or Physician Assistant (PA). This will expedite initial intakes and streamline coordination of care when an individual is most in need of immediate attention.
- Expand access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to permit dosing at satellite facilities even though counseling remains at the base Narcotic Treatment Programs. This allows more people to receive necessary treatments at the same location, increasing their access to all the care and chances for recovery.
- Waive annual licensing requirements for high-performing drug and alcohol treatment facilities to allow for bi-annual licensure process which streamlines licensing functions and better allocates staff time.
- Waive the fee for birth certificates for individuals who request a good-cause waiver by attesting that they are affected by Opioid Use Disorder. This is of particular importance to individuals experiencing homelessness and other vulnerable populations who often cannot obtain copies of their birth certificates in order to access treatment and other benefits due to the financial requirements.
- Waive separate licensing requirements for hospitals and emergency departments to expand access to drug and alcohol treatment.
Unfortunately, with an already-stressed budget, Governor Wolf has added no money to administering the goals of the declaration.
With so many young people dying from this epidemic, I find it imperative that our state take preventative measures so that our future generations do not have to continue to fight this epidemic. One way to achieve this is by having professionals educating the youth in school about the devastating effects of heroin and opioids. I believe that it is necessary that officials advocate for programs to begin at a young age since according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some children are already abusing drugs at ages 12 or 13, which likely means that some begin even earlier. By being proactive, hopefully we can start to nip this crisis in the bud.
Did You Know…
Did you know in 2016 there were more than 64,000 deaths in the United States from drug overdoses, which marked the largest annual jump ever recorded?
PUC Oversight of PWSA
Last week, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved and posted for public comment a Tentative Implementation Order for Act 65 of 2017, addressing Commission oversight of water, wastewater and storm water services by entities created by the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA).
The Tentative Order proposes methods for ratemaking, tariff approval, compliance plans, infrastructure improvements, consumer protection and other implementation issues. As part of this process, the Commission has invited interested parties to provide comment on the tentative proposals and relevant statutory interpretations, and offer any additional recommendations for consideration. Comments should be submitted within 20 days of the entry of this Order.
Under the plan outlined in the Tentative Order, existing PWSA rates and terms of service will remain in place as a temporary measure, until the Commission reviews and approves a rate filing from the Authority.
Proposed tariffs for water and wastewater service must be filed no later than Monday, July 2, 2018, and those tariffs would be subject to the PUC’s normal ratemaking process to determine just and reasonable rates, including a Commission investigation, public input and the ability for parties to voice their concerns.
The Tentative Order also details proposed changes in the handling of consumer complaints. Beginning on Monday, April 2, 2018, the Commission proposes to begin accepting complaints from PWSA customers – either as informal complaints submitted to the PUC’s Bureau of Consumer Services (1-800-692-7380 and by clicking here) or as formal complaints filed with the Commission.
Under the Tentative Order, the Commission also proposes to accept informal and formal complaints as of April 2, marking the end of the PWSA’s current Exoneration Hearing Board as an adjudicative body, with the Commission reviewing customer complaints in accordance with the due process rights detailed in the Public Utility Code and the Commission’s regulations.
The Tentative Order also requires PWSA to file a compliance plan by Friday, September 28, 2018, to ensure compliance for regulatory issues not addressed in the tariff filing – including a Long-Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan – detailing how PWSA intends to replace or upgrade targeted facilities, and how that will improve reliability, adequacy and safety.
Comments regarding the Tentative Implementation Order should be submitted by the close of business (4:30 p.m. EST) on Wednesday, February 7, 2018. Comments should be filed with the Commission’s Secretary, at docket numbers M-2018-2640802 and M-2018-2640803. Instructions for e-filing are on the PUC website.
Comments may also be filed in writing, by overnight delivery, certified or priority mail. Written comments should be addressed to:
Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North Street
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Small Water and Sewer Program
The Commonwealth Financing Authority and Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) are accepting applications for the Small Water and Sewer Program that was reauthorized as part of the budget in October. Municipalities and municipal authorities are eligible to apply.
Grants received through this program are for activities to assist with the construction, improvement, expansion, or rehabilitation or repair of a water supply or sanitary sewer system. Eligible projects are those which have a total project cost of not less than $30,000 and not more than $500,000. A link to the guidelines and online application can be found by clicking here or visiting https://dced.pa.gov/programs/pa-small-water-sewer/.
Gaming Revenue Increases in 2017
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced last week that gross total gaming revenue, combining slot machines and table games, rose slightly in 2017 and once again exceeded $3.2 billion. Table games revenue reached a record high in 2017 while slot machine revenue was down slightly. Tax revenue in 2017 from the combined play of slot machines and table games was over $1.33 billion.
Gross revenue generated from table games came in at over $890 million, marking a 4.4 percent increase over 2016 revenue.
The state’s gaming industry employs over 18,000 people and generates approximately $1.4 billion annually in tax revenue from both slot machines and table games. For more information on gaming in Pennsylvania and to read reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit them online at www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
Beechview Streetscape Project Update
The City’s planning department is continuing to finalize plans for Beechview’s streetscape improvements with the intent of presenting their plans to the public on Feb. 1. The challenge has been to meet the community’s goals of improving vehicular and pedestrian safety and lighting, and creating a more inviting presence along Broadway Avenue. In other words, enhancements to the business district that the community can be proud of, that will promote Beechview, and encourage other businesses to locate there.
I have secured the social hall at St. Pamphilus Church from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. for the City to present their plans. St. Pamphilus is located at 1000 Tropical Avenue in Beechview. The open house will provide residents the opportunity to view the plans for the proposed streetscape project. City planners will be available to answer questions from residents and receive feedback. Myself and City Councilman Anthony Coghill will also be present to answer questions and address any concerns.
I have also scheduled a follow-up community meeting, along with Councilman Coghill and City officials, on Saturday, Feb. 3 at the Beechview Community Center, located at 1555 Broadway Avenue, starting at noon, to answer additional questions and discuss any changes that the residents may want to have considered. Please spread the word. Feel free to contact me with any questions before the meeting by calling my office.
Construction Trades Careers Community Workshop
This Saturday, the Builders Guild of Western PA, Pittsburgh Penguins and Master Builders Association of Western PA, are joining to host a Construction Trades Careers Community Workshop. The community workshop event is taking place at PPG Paints Arena from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Attendees will have the chance to meet representatives of the Pittsburgh Region Construction Trades and Contractors and learn about the application and acceptance process into the Apprenticeship Training Programs. There is no cost for these nationally recognized training programs and participants are paid while in training, with benefits. No construction experience is necessary.
The region’s commercial construction industry is at historic highs and continues to grow. The need for people with drive and desire to build a sustainable, well-paying career and to help build our region has never been greater. Minorities and women are especially encouraged to attend and apply.
Parking is free in the arena’s South Lot on Centre Avenue and attendees should enter the arena through the Trib Total Media Gate. For more information please visit www.buildersguild.org.
Allegheny Lead Safe Home Program
Preventing children from coming into the contact with lead is of the utmost importance. Those younger than age 6 exposed to lead by ingesting paint, soil, food, or water containing it are in danger of damaging their developing brains and nervous systems. Making matters worse, lead dust often is invisible to the naked eye.
The Allegheny Lead Safe Home Program was created to prevent that potential exposure. It provides one-on-one education, lead-paint testing, and home repairs for free. Certified Lead Abatement Contractors are hired for repair and/or replacement of paint, flooring, windows, doors and trim. They also provide a visual inspection and further lead testing after their work is done.
For more information about the program, call 412-227-5700, email email@example.com or visit www.alleghenycounty.us/leadsafeprogram.
Oasis Tutoring Program
The OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring Program is hosting two training sessions for older adults interested in volunteering as tutors. OASIS is a non-profit organization that recruits and trains older adults (50+) to tutor children (grades K-4) in Pittsburgh Public Schools in reading and writing. OASIS has tutors in over 32 schools and serves 200 students yearly.
Training sessions will be held today and this Thursday, Jan. 25 from 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at the OASIS office, located in the Duquesne Light Building, Suite 525 at 411 Seventh Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. All training, materials and clearances are free.
For more information on how to become an OASIS tutor, please contact John D. Spehar, Pittsburgh OASIS Tutoring Program Director at 412-393-7648 or firstname.lastname@example.org. OASIS is an affiliate of the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.
According to a MoneyTree Report, startup companies in the Pittsburgh region took in more than twice as much venture capital funding in 2017 compared to 2016. Venture capital firms poured more than $302.1 million into Pittsburgh companies, the most since 2000.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol |
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
|Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library |
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212