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November 02, 2016

Wolf signs package of bills to combat heroin, opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf on Wednesday signed four bills that will strengthen the state's programs and defenses against the deepening crisis of heroin and opioid addition.

The legislation comes after the governor addressed a joint session of the Senate and House in September to define his priorities around prescription drugs and substance abuse disorder.

“I am proud to sign a package of bills that represents the work that we have all done together to address the heroin and opioid abuse crisis, and begins to curb the effects of this public health epidemic in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said Wednesday in a statement.

The five bills signed into law will fortify the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, restrict the number of pills that can be prescribed to minors or in emergency rooms, establish education curriculum on safe prescribing, and create more locations for the drop-off of prescription drugs.

Specifically, the legislation limits opioid prescriptions for minors to no longer than seven days and requires physicians to take several steps before issuing the first course of treatment. Another measure establishes a uniform safe opioid prescribing curriculum in medical colleges and other medical training facilities.

Hospital emergency departments and urgent care centers will also now be limited to prescribing opioids in quantities that last no more than seven days and they will no longer be permitted to write refills for opioid prescriptions.

Finally, the bill will allow all federal, state and local law enforcement entities — including hospitals, assisted living facilities, home health care agencies, long-term care nursing facilities, hospice and commonwealth licensed pharmacies — to serve as drop-off locations for extra, unwanted or expired prescription drugs or over-the-counter pharmaceutical products.

“The legislature has made significant steps this session toward curbing our state’s opioid abuse crisis,” said Representative Doyle Heffley. “This is a nonpartisan issue impacting every community in Pennsylvania, and we need to continue to do all we can to prevent opioid abuse as well as provide adequate treatment options for those in recovery.”