Senate Approves Legislation to Combat Opioid Addiction Crisis

Senator Scott Hutchinson was a panelist at a September 20 public hearing of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at Indiana University of Pennsylvania on the impact of the heroin and opioid epidemic on Pennsylvania’s rural counties.

Senator Scott Hutchinson was a panelist at a September 20 public hearing of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania at Indiana University of Pennsylvania on the impact of the heroin and opioid epidemic on Pennsylvania’s rural counties.

The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved and sent to the House of Representatives three measures addressing the state’s growing opioid addiction crisis, according to Senator Scott Hutchinson.

“The heroin and opioid crisis has wreaked havoc across Pennsylvania, from the streets of our big cities to our most rural areas,” said Senator Hutchinson, who attended Wednesday’s address by Governor Wolf on the issue before a joint session of the General Assembly. “Addiction to heroin and opioids has destroyed lives and devastated families at an unbelievable and unacceptable rate in Pennsylvania. The Legislature is committed to addressing this crisis with the bills we passed today as the next steps in that process.”

Senate Bill 1212 would establish the School Aged Children Opioid Awareness Education Program. The Departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health, and Education will work together to design a request for proposals for organizations that can provide opioid awareness education programs to be delivered in schools.

Senate Bill 1367 limits the amount of opioids that children may be prescribed, with reasonable exceptions for cases involving chronic pain, cancer treatment or for palliative care or hospice care.  It also requires a health care professional to obtain written consent from a minor’s parent or legal guardian to prescribe a medical treatment containing opioids, and provide information on the risks of addiction and dangers of overdose associated with the medication.

Senate Bill 1368 implements the Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum in all of Pennsylvania’s medical schools.  The plan calls for a focus in four key areas including pain management; multimodal treatments for chronic pain that minimize the use of opioids, or when opioids are indicated, to prescribe them in a way that is safe and that follows guideline-based care; focusing on patients who have been identified as at-risk for developing problems with prescription opioids; and teaching medical students how to manage substance abuse disorders as a chronic disease.

The bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

In June, the Senate approved Senate Bill 1202, a measure that requires licensed medication dispensers and prescribers to receive two hours of continuing education in pain management or in the prescribing practices of opioids.

The Senate also approved a Drug and Alcohol Recovery High School Pilot Program to provide instruction meeting State academic standards for students in grades 9 through 12 who are in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse or addiction. The measure was included as part of the School Code passed as part of the state budget package.

Listen to Senator Hutchinson’s comments on Pennsylvania’s efforts to address the heroin and opioids crisis.

Contact:          Justin Leventry           (717) 787-9684