2018-01-11 / Front Page

PA Attorney General Hosts Opioid And Heroin Round Table Discussion

By Cassidy Pittman
STAFF REPORT


Attorney General Josh Shapiro hosted a round table discussion last Friday at the Fulton Theatre to discuss the heroin and opioid epidemic. Local officials present were Sen. John Eichelberger, Rep. Jesse Topper, Commissioners Stuart Ulsh, Rodney McCray and Pete Lynch along with Chief Probation Officer Daniel Miller and Magisterial District Judge Devin Horne. Attorney General Josh Shapiro hosted a round table discussion last Friday at the Fulton Theatre to discuss the heroin and opioid epidemic. Local officials present were Sen. John Eichelberger, Rep. Jesse Topper, Commissioners Stuart Ulsh, Rodney McCray and Pete Lynch along with Chief Probation Officer Daniel Miller and Magisterial District Judge Devin Horne. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro hosted a ‘round table’ discussion with local officials at the Fulton Theatre last Friday to discuss the ever-present opioid epidemic that has taken over not just the county, but the state.

Sen. John Eichelberger, Rep. Jesse Topper, Magisterial District Judge Devin C. Horne, commissioners Pete Lynch, Stuart Ulsh, and Rodney McCray, and Chief Probation Officer Daniel Miller were among the local officials to attend the meeting.

Since taking his office in January of 2017, Attorney General Shapiro’s office has arrested, on average, more than four drug dealers a day. Due to these arrests and the compliancy of law enforcement, more than 40 tons of illegal and prescription drugs have been destroyed. Other positive impacts include the distribution of 300,000 drug disposal pouches in 17 counties within Pennsylvania, working with the insurance industry to expand access to drug treatment, and providing help in leading a nationwide investigation by 41 state attorneys general of the pharmaceutical industry for its role in fueling the country’s opioid crisis.

A recent study performed in 2017 by the University of Pittsburgh found that Pennsylvania lost 4,642 people to overdoses in 2016, giving the state an average of 13 deaths per day specifically from the overuse of heroin and opioids. Fulton County ranked the highest at 74.1 people per every 100,000 people. However, recent research has lowered the county’s ranking from No.1 to No. 2 on the list of ‘Highest Opioid Deaths’ in a county.

Attorney General Shapiro went on to discuss Naloxone, or Narcan, a drug that, thanks to Gov. Tom Wolf, is now available to every Pennsylvanian without a prescription. When issued appropriately, Naloxone can reverse the effects of an overdose, giving the user more time to get to a medical facility. While it is a lifesaving drug in such cases, it is to be used only in emergency situations and is not a solution to the growing epidemic. Aetna, an insurance company, has recently announced that it will no longer require a copay for Narcan, and that customers will pay nothing out of pocket for it once deductibles are met.

According to the attorney general’s press release, while some insurers have become part of the solution, many continued to contribute to the epidemic. Four out of five heroin users start with prescription painkillers, and the commonwealth and country have been flooded with unnecessary, highly addictive prescription opioids. Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, is one of the leading causes of opioid overdose.

Despite no change in reported pain levels, sales of prescription opioids quadrupled from 1999 to 2014 and continue at a staggering pace. In 2015, U.S. doctors wrote 300 million pain prescriptions – and insurance companies approved nearly every single one of them, typically without questioning the need or offering meaningful coverage for alternatives.

Among those that spoke during the round table discussion, Chief Probation Officer Miller made the valid point that in addition to lowering active drug use, better steps toward sobriety for the recovering addicts are sorely needed. The average addict can receive a 28-day stay in a state rehabilitation center through their insurance. However, it takes much more than month-long stay to assist an addict in reclaiming not only their sobriety, but their life.

For those interested in joining the discussion, Sen. Eichelberger will be hosting a town hall meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at the Fulton County Library. The discussion will be held in the basement meeting room and will begin at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is to address all concerns and views Fulton County citizens may have.

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