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PA Governor Touts Opioid Help Hotline, Other Initiatives

TRANSFORMING HEALTH - Initiatives to prevent addiction and help those who need treatment show signs of working, Wolf Administration officials said at a press briefing.

Since the 1-800-662-HELP hotline was rolled out in Pennsylvania, call center staff have fielded more than 30,000 calls and connected thousands of people to local resources to get clean, said Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Acting Deputy Secretary Ellen DiDomenico. Hotline workers  stay on the phone with those in need of help until they've booked an appointment with a designated county agency or other local resource, she said.

In addition, prescribing guidelines for health care professionals are helping to prevent addiction by limiting access to opioids, Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine said.

Governor Tom Wolf declared a 90-day 'disaster emergency' to deal with the opioid crisis in January. Since then the administration has twice extended that emergency period. Wolf has said the designation allows the state to cut through some rules to help people struggling with addiction.

Since the disaster declaration, the administration set up an opioid operational command center, which includes 12 state agencies that meet weekly to recommend initiatives. Other efforts include allowing first responders to leave behind naloxone if they believe it may help to save someone's life and loosening licensing rules for high-performing drug and alcohol facilities.

An estimated 5,200 Pennsylvanians died of drug overdoses in 2017.