Governor Wolf’s Address to Joint Session on Battling the Opioid Epidemic

first_imgGovernor Wolf’s Address to Joint Session on Battling the Opioid Epidemic September 28, 2016 Remarks,  Substance Use Disorder,  Videos Pennsylvania State CapitolHarrisburg, PATRANSCRIPT:Thank you for allowing me to address a joint session of the legislature. Working together, we have had great success in moving Pennsylvania forward, but we still have a lot more work to do.I am grateful to President Scarnati and Speaker Turzai, Leaders Corman, Costa, Reed and Dermody for your willingness to make the fight against opioid addiction a priority and for your work in the past to address this crisis.The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, chaired by Senator Gene Yaw, has worked on solutions to the opioid epidemic since 2014. The work the center has undertaken has positioned many pieces of legislation for passage that we can now finalize. Senator Wozniak and Representatives Kavulich and Everett have also been strong voices in this effort.I am also thankful to the Chairs of the HOPE Caucus – Representatives Ed Gainey and Aaron Kaufer as well as Senators Gene Yaw and Jay Costa – for their laser focus on fighting the opioid epidemic in communities throughout Pennsylvania.I would also like to acknowledge Representative Gene DiGirolamo for his passion and his work to fight addiction.Many members here today have provided thoughtful legislation and innovative ideas to fight opioid addiction.We are all aware of the opioid epidemic facing Pennsylvania – a public health crisis, the likes of which we have not before seen.Every day we lose ten Pennsylvanians to the disease of addiction.This disease does not have compassion, or show regard for status, gender, race, or borders.It affects each and every Pennsylvanian, and threatens entire communities throughout our commonwealth.The disease of addiction has taken thousands of our friends and family members. In the past year alone we lost over 3,500 Pennsylvanians – a thousand more lives taken than the year before.We are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, prescription opioid overdose deaths in the United States have quadrupled since 1999.Families have identified loved ones. People have buried their childhood friends.It is a crisis that has been building for years, right here in Pennsylvania and all across the country.Addiction too often is an invisible problem.People with substance use disorders and their families fear the stigma of addiction, which keeps them isolated and unwilling to ask for help.The consequences fall to law enforcement, jails and prisons, and understaffed treatment centers.But in Pennsylvania the problem is visible — in the lives lost. The families broken. The communities shaken.It is visible because parents have come to us – every single one of us – asking for help.It is visible because the members of this building listened and made the fight against opioid addiction a priority right here in Harrisburg.And because you have brought the voices of your constituents here, it is now possible for us to fight with every tool we have.And that is what we are going to do.We are going to take a stand against the vicious disease of opioid addiction.This past year has moved from conflict to civility.We have achieved some very good things working together.And while achieving these things, we have made fighting the opioid epidemic a top priority.I have traveled the commonwealth with Republicans and Democrats. We have listened to our fellow Pennsylvanians. We’ve held parents’ hands as they cried and we’ve hugged those in recovery who’ve risen above this disease – and we’ve heard their stories.Parents and those suffering from the disease of addiction have broken down telling us about the difficulty of finding treatment options.We heard them, so together in this year’s budget we increased funding for treatment centers by more than $20 million. That will create 45 centers for treatment, allowing nearly 11,000 Pennsylvanians to receive care.These centers integrate behavioral health, primary care and, when appropriate, evidence-based medication assisted treatment.And by expanding Medicaid to provide nearly 700,000 Pennsylvanians with health care, we also provided treatment to 63,000 Pennsylvanians battling the disease of addiction who previously did not have access to care. We are doing more to treat this like the public health crisis it is.Doctors and other medical professionals have voiced frustration at the inability to find centralized prescribing information.We heard them, so together we redesigned the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program – a database created by the legislature through a bill authored by Senator Pat Vance.The online database allows prescribers and pharmacists to monitor who is obtaining opioids, and where and how often they were prescribed.This critical tool will support medical professionals in identifying patients struggling with the disease of addiction and get them the help they need.Police and first responders asked us for more tools to save people. We heard them too, so together we have made an opioid overdose reversal antidote – naloxone – available to Pennsylvanians, including local police departments.Last year, Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine signed an order enabling all Pennsylvanians to access naloxone without a prescription at their local pharmacy.And since November 2014, more than 1,500 opioid overdoses have been reversed by local and state police officers.As York District Attorney Tom Kearney said of law enforcement officials – this disease was not their public health issue, but many of them made it their fight and for that, we owe them a great debt of gratitude.Ordinary Pennsylvanians wanted to know how they could help.We heard them, so together we are helping communities properly dispose of unused and unwanted prescriptions through a drug take-back program.There are nearly 520 take-back boxes located at police stations across Pennsylvania, and we have collected and destroyed over 145 thousand pounds of prescription drugs including opioids.Together, we have taken important steps to stop this crisis in Pennsylvania.But we have more to do.Over the past six months, I’ve sat with many of you in roundtables with families, law enforcement and medical professionals to discuss the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania.But in addition to the stories we have heard, every one of us likely has a personal story they can recount by heart. And so many of these stories are the same – no matter how different the storytellers are.Just a few weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend who asked me if he could give me a letter. I asked if he just wanted to talk, but he had trouble composing his words.When he gave me the letter, I was surprised to learn that his own child had recently passed away from the disease of addiction.He was heartbroken, but thanked all of us for the work we’ve done to help people suffering from the disease of addiction while imploring us to do more.This is one example of the far-reaching effects of the opioid crisis.This crisis reaches into every population, every age group, and every kind of family.It is our job to make sure no families have to write these letters or bear this pain ever again.We must address this epidemic, but how can we make the biggest difference in the short time we have left this year?We should not place limitations on what we can achieve in this session, we all have priorities, and we all want action.But I want to talk about several bills that have already been introduced and discussed – and in some cases even passed by a chamber. We need to get them to my desk so I can sign them and we can make progress in this fight.If we work together, we can continue to fight back against this epidemic. We must act now – many Pennsylvania families are counting on us.First, physicians should check the commonwealth’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program each time they prescribe opioids and other controlled substances.Our current law is not strong enough. It only requires doctors to check the system the first time they prescribe to a patient, or if they believe a patient is suffering from the disease of addiction.Pharmacists should enter data into the database within 24 hours of issuing a prescription, rather than the current standard of 72 hours.Strengthening program requirements is imperative in helping doctors and pharmacists identify whether patients are doctor shopping or other doctors are overprescribing patients.State officials also need the tools to identify inappropriate prescribing and dispensing practices among health care providers to better crack down on abuse.Second, let’s prepare doctors and physicians for prescribing opioids and pain management by improving medical school and continuing education curricula on opioids.This will give doctors the knowledge and best practices needed to tailor their clinical skills to identify signs of addiction and provide patients with information to avoid abuse or engage in meaningful treatment if they become addicted.​Third, let’s limit the amount of opioids a patient can receive at emergency rooms to a seven day supply with no refills.And we should put the same restriction in place for minors no matter where they get a prescription. We have heard too many horror stories about high school athletes whose futures are robbed by addiction that begins with prescription painkillers.Of course, those suffering from crippling pain need relief, and we must be careful to protect the ability of sufferers of long-term pain or victims of trauma to receive appropriate medication.Fourth, let’s require insurance companies to cover abuse deterrent opioids – similar to what they already have in Massachusetts. This will make it more difficult to abuse prescription drugs.While many people become addicted by simply swallowing pills, others crush pills to snort or smoke.Drug manufacturers are rapidly developing new technologies to prevent this kind of abuse.Some of these drugs are uncrushable, even with a hammer, while others are formulated with naloxone so the more an individual takes, the less effective it is in creating a high and limiting the potential for overdose.Others turn into a gel when they are crushed, making them impossible to put into a syringe to inject. These deterrent measures, if crafted properly, can be important tools against intentional or unintentional abuse or overdoses.Lastly, several new bills deserve our consideration.Two bills require schools to teach students about opioid misuse in existing drug and alcohol abuse curricula.Another bill would allow patients to establish a voluntary directive if they do not want to be prescribed opioids.The point is that the time for action is now.As many have noted and I said earlier, 3,500 Pennsylvanians lost their lives to addiction in 2015 alone.That means that each year we are losing the population of Parkesburg, Freeland, or Mifflinburg to the disease of addiction.And each year the numbers grow.The opioid epidemic did not start overnight and we will not fix it overnight, or even in this session.But by acting on these bills – and by putting other ideas on the table – we can continue to stem the tide of opioid abuse. We can make progress for the families we have met – the parents who have cried on our shoulders.Here in this building, we can make a difference. Right now. With bills that are close to passage.In my inaugural address, I acknowledged that some people feel indifference toward their government.In the past two years, we haven’t always helped improve that perception.But in the past several months we’ve solved some big problems. Many of these issues have vexed Pennsylvania’s elected leaders for generations.It’s a start, and we have more to do.But with the most Republican legislature in modern history and a Democratic Governor, we’ve balanced the budget, we’ve increased education funding, we’ve passed a fair funding formula, we’ve brought medical marijuana to suffering kids, and we’ve reformed the liquor system.The magnitude of the opioid crisis threatens to cast a shadow over all of these important accomplishments and everything else we work to achieve in this building.But it is also a calling to use our time and our energy to fix a problem touching too many Pennsylvanians.The crisis calls on us to cast aside partisanship once again.It calls on us to reject cynicism once again. It calls on us to take action once again.Families in Philadelphia, Brockway, Indiana, Allegheny County, State College, Mount Wolf, and all across Pennsylvania are calling on us to act.It is life or death.We have shown that we can work together to make Pennsylvania the great place we know it can be. It is now time to do so again and give the people of Pennsylvania a reason to believe in their leaders.It is up to us to tackle the opioid crisis and give Pennsylvania the prosperous, healthy, and safe future we know it deserves.I look forward to a productive session and real progress toward stopping the opioid epidemic. Let us, here in Pennsylvania, lead the nation in fighting this crisis. Let’s get this done.Thank you.Like Governor Tom Wolf on Facebook: SHARE Email Facebook Twitterlast_img read more

LaCombe, Johnson bring Minnesota friendship to Syracuse

first_imgFourteen miles of Minneapolis suburbs are all that separated ice hockey players Allie LaCombe and Cara Johnson growing up.Now as teammates at Syracuse, they couldn’t be any closer.LaCombe and Johnson became friends one summer as high school underclassmen playing for the Minnesota Whitecaps. Little did they realize they would share the same ice for nearly a decade.“It’s almost hard to explain sometimes,” Johnson said. “That we’re all the way out here in Syracuse and we have that Minnesota connection.“It’s a real thing, there’s just things we’ve both experienced from back home that we can share together.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textLaCombe, a junior, and Johnson, a senior, both play contributing roles for Syracuse (16-11-3, 7-6-3 College Hockey America). LaCombe is one of SU’s leading offensive forces with eight goals on the season, while Johnson is viewed as an unspoken leader on the team and is highly regarded by her peers and coaches.Part of their fondest memories competing on the ice goes back to high school, when they competed as players on rival high schools.“I’ve known Cara for so long that it was almost hard to think of those games as rivalry games,” LaCombe said.While Johnson reveled in the opportunity to play a close companion in high-intensity games, she didn’t mirror LaCombe’s exact thoughts.“Allie’s team was known as the powerhouse hockey school in the area and I watched them win two state championships,” Johnson said. “Then when all of the seniors left Allie’s team, it was nice to finally beat up on those guys and we went to (the state championship).”No hard feelings were ever instilled in one another. If anything, the matchups were just another way to heighten the competitive edge between them.As both players have watched each other mature and develop, their mutual respect for one another is palpable.“I’ve watched Cara become faster and stronger,” LaCombe said. “Once most girls reach college hockey, they begin to blossom as a player. And that’s definitely the case for Cara.”Johnson echoed much of the same sentiments toward LaCombe and said that her teammate has one of the best shots on the team.In terms of eventually arriving together at Syracuse, LaCombe insisted familiarity was a big factor for her selection in a school. Johnson provided the glimpse of home that LaCombe desired on what would be her future team.“It was important to me to have some connection and comfortably with whatever school I was going to choose,” LaCombe said. “So knowing I would have Cara from back home definitely was a big factor in leading me here.”Head coach Paul Flanagan believes the connection for the two transcends just the Syracuse hockey team, as well.“It happens quite a lot — where the best athletes in smaller areas get to know each other quite well,” Flanagan said. “And I’m sure they got to know each other real well and may have had some sort of direct or indirect affect on Allie’s decision.”Since LaCombe’s cousin used to play for Syracuse, Johnson doesn’t take responsibility for LaCombe choosing SU. Yet she did remember the jubilance both of them shared when LaCombe broke the news that she had been accepted into the school.Now Johnson’s inclination reflects a microcosm of their relationship.The modest and mild-mannered Johnson doesn’t look upon herself as a leader or captain, but her closest peers — especially LaCombe — would like to convince her that she is.“She’s a senior this year and has been a phenomenal leader for us on and off the ice,” LaCombe said. “But really, being so close to her for so long, I’ve looked up to her almost my entire life.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 12, 2014 at 1:26 am Contact Connor: | @connorgrossmanlast_img read more

Sunday blog: New classification format will have little affect on Wellington – except driving

first_imgby Tracy McCue, Sumner Newscow — The division of Class 4A for which Wellington is a part, drew what I thought was pretty much a collective yawn from local Crusader fans.And that is probably the way it should be.Last week, the Kansas State High School Activities Association Class 4A schools voted 43-22 to split the 64-team classification into two 32 team divisions for five sports: football, volleyball, basketball, softball, and baseball. All other sports will remain in the old 64-team format. Using last year’s enrollment figures, Wellington is currently No. 26 on the 64 team list (see list below) which means it will be Division 1 – competing against the bigger 32 4A teams in the post season. That could change over time because Wellington is just 50 high school students from dropping into the lower tier of the classification.The change begins the next 2013-14 school term with the exception of football which is currently on a two-year cycle and will begin in 2014-15.So how will this change affect Wellington? Probably not a lot. Not to sound rude here, but this change was about smaller Class 4A schools, like Holton, Pratt or Wichita Collegiate, which regularly compete for state championships in those five sports, but are denied because schools like McPherson and Rose Hill – twice their size – are standing in their way.By the same token, schools like McPherson and Rose Hill love the new plan because they no longer have to compete with Wichita Collegiate – that lovely recruiting private school to our north – for a state championship.Wellington may be able to shed Collegiate of post season play in those sports – at least for a while – but the Crusaders still have to beat the likes of Topeka Hayden, Mulvane, Rose Hill and McPherson if they want to win any kind of state championship glory.This is not to mention Andale, winners in everything, who is right now on the bubble at the top of Division two, but could easily move to Division one soon with a growth spurt.I don’t see this being any easier for Wellington no matter how you slice it. The sports for which Wellington has been most successful in the past: i.e. tennis, golf and girls track with potential success in wresting in the future are unaffected by the new format. Those sports will remain in the old Class 4A format.Will Class 4A be more watered down? Yes. Does it matter? Not really – unless you are a member of the eight or so schools, who are always competing for state championships in a multitude of sports.So what will change for Wellington?Logistics. Wellington will possibly be playing Ulysses – a hop and a jump away from Colorado – on a regular basis in regional and district tournaments. Get this: With the new format Wellington is the closest school to Ulysses in Class 4A Division 1 at 250 miles!Saddle up the busses boys for a four hour ride so we can play Clearwater in the first round of a regional basketball tournament hosted by Ulysses.One thing I do like about the new format, is the potential of eliminating that absurd Thursday-Tuesday-Saturday format in football in which the KSHSAA tries to sandwich three games in two weeks. With 32 teams instead of 64, there will be one less round of playoffs meaning everything can be played on Friday night. No more football playoff games on Tuesday night! I would love to see Wellington participate in such a playoff system.Nevertheless, Wellington will always still have to bat down someone of irritation whether its Andale or Wichita Collegiate or Tenbucktwo in the post season.For Wellington, getting better is the key to success. No new post season format is going to change that for the Crusaders.DIVISION 1                                         DIVISION 21.    Topeka Highland Park 729             1.     Andale 4342.     Pittsburg 710                                 2.     Eudora 4333.     Bonner Springs 708                       3.     Clearwater 3694.     Winfield 691                                  4.     Santa Fe Trail 3625.     McPherson 690                             5.     Iola 3616.     De Soto 681                                    6.    Parsons 3617.     KC Sumner Academy 674               7.    KC Ward 3548.     Paola 650                                       8.   Osawatomie 3539.     Buhler 642                                      9.   Pratt 35010.   Ottawa 636                                   10.   Columbus 34311.   Spring Hill 636                               11.   Girard 33512.   Basehor-Linwood 599                   12.   Perry-Lecompton 32813.   Tonganoxie 595                            13.   Garnett-Anderson County 32114.   Rose Hill 585                                14.   Chapman 32015.   Independence 576                        15.   Holton 32016.   Augusta 567                                 16.   Colby 31017.   Mulvane 565                                 17.   Clay Center 30718.   KC Piper 563                                 18.   Wichita Trinity 30519.   Fort Scott 562                               19.   Meriden-Jefferson West 30520.   El Dorado 561                               20.   Nickerson 29921.   Chanute 552                                  21.   Hugoton 29722,   Labette County 527                       22.   LaCygne-Prairie View 29523.   Towanda-Circle 525                      23.   Hoyt-Royal Valley 29024.   Louisburg 490                               24.  Lindsborg-Smoky Valley 29025.   Topeka Hayden 488                      25.   Larned 28826.   Wellington 487                             26.   Baxter Springs 28527.   Abilene 476                                   27.  Concordia 28228.   Coffeyville 462                              28.   Goodland 27529.   Atchison 460                                 29.   Hesston 27030.   Ulysses 457                                  30.  Collegiate 26731.   Baldwin 456                                  31.  St. George-Rock Creek 25832.   Wamego 451                                 32.   Frontenac 258 Close Forgot password? Please put in your email: Send me my password! Close message Login This blog post All blog posts Subscribe to this blog post’s comments through… RSS Feed Subscribe via email Subscribe Subscribe to this blog’s comments through… RSS Feed Subscribe via email Subscribe Follow the discussion Comment (1) Logging you in… Close Login to IntenseDebate Or create an account Username or Email: Password: Forgot login? Cancel Login Close Username or Email: Password: Lost your password? Cancel Login Dashboard | Edit profile | Logout Logged in as Admin Options Disable comments for this page Save Settings Sort by: Date Rating Last Activity Loading comments… You are about to flag this comment as being inappropriate. Please explain why you are flagging this comment in the text box below and submit your report. The blog admin will be notified. Thank you for your input. 0 Vote up Vote down Lost Crusader · 374 weeks ago It was a very sad day in the state when this agenda was passed. We will see a lot fewer in the seats come playoff time and on the road games. Sellars park used to be packed for all games. Now we are lucky to have half the seats filled and are usually empty by halftime. Report Reply 0 replies · active 374 weeks ago Post a new comment Enter text right here! Comment as a Guest, or login: Login to IntenseDebate Login to Login to Twitter Go back Tweet this comment Connected as (Logout) Email (optional) Not displayed publicly. Name Email Website (optional) Displayed next to your comments. Not displayed publicly. If you have a website, link to it here. Posting anonymously. Tweet this comment Submit Comment Subscribe to None Replies All new comments Comments by IntenseDebate Enter text right here! Reply as a Guest, or login: Login to IntenseDebate Login to Login to Twitter Go back Tweet this comment Connected as (Logout) Email (optional) Not displayed publicly. Name Email Website (optional) Displayed next to your comments. Not displayed publicly. If you have a website, link to it here. Posting anonymously. Tweet this comment Cancel Submit Comment Subscribe to None Replies All new commentslast_img read more