Governor declares statewide 'disaster emergency' for Pa.'s heroin, opioid epidemic

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Gov. Tom Wolf signed a statewide disaster declaration on Tuesday for the state's heroin and opioid epidemic. According to the governor's office, the measure will "enhance state response, increase access to treatment, and save lives."

“While we have made progress in combating the heroin and opioid abuse crisis and drastically expanded Pennsylvania's response, we are still losing far too many Pennsylvanians,” Governor Wolf said. “I am taking this step to protect Pennsylvanians from this looming public health crisis, and I am using every tool at my disposal to get those suffering from substance use disorders into treatment, save more lives, and improve response coordination.”

The declaration is being characterized as the first of it's kind for a public health emergency in Pa. The measure allows the use of a command center at PEMA to track progress and "enhance coordination of health and public safety agencies," according to the governor's office.

“I routinely challenge all commonwealth agencies to think innovatively about how they continue to address the opioid epidemic and seek solutions that last long beyond our tenure in this building,” Governor Wolf said. “One such solution is to use the executive authority granted to me as the governor of this commonwealth to waive statutory regulations that create barriers to treatment and prevention, prevent first responders and others from saving lives, and reduce efficiency of our response.”