A neighbor robbed at gunpoint by an addict desperately searching for anything to sell in exchange for a quick fix. A coworker involved in a car accident at the hands of an intoxicated driver. A loved one passed away from an overdose. It seems that nearly every day now we’re hearing heartbreaking stories like these in the news.
The trouble with addiction is that it’s painful. Painful for family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and indeed, entire communities. There is scarcely anyone whose life hasn’t been impacted by addiction in some way.
As an elected official, it is my job to be informed and familiar with the issues that affect my constituents. In doing so, I strive to take a frontline approach to understanding these issues and concerns.
As such, I recently had the opportunity to participate in a ride-along with Lancaster EMS to learn more about the challenges facing our emergency responders as they serve and protect our communities. While I was certainly impressed with the great work that these men and women do every day for Lancaster County, I was also shocked by the amount of time that they spent responding to drug and overdose-related calls.
It became clear to me during this ride-along that the severity and scope of this epidemic demands that these professionals devote a significant amount of their time and resources to situations involving heroin, opioids, alcohol, and most recently, K2, a form of synthetic marijuana that’s become increasingly prevalent in areas of Lancaster County.
While we are certainly feeling the impacts of opioid and drug addiction here in Lancaster County, the reverberations of this epidemic can be felt throughout the Commonwealth. In fact, Governor Wolf recently declared a state of emergency in response to this increasingly deadly epidemic.
After experiencing firsthand the devastating effects that addiction can have on individuals, families, and entire communities, I felt compelled to act. As such, I recently introduced Senate Bill 1152 to create opioid patient treatment agreements.
Specifically, this legislation would require new patients who need a prescribed opioid regime to enter into treatment agreements with a prescriber to ensure patients understand the risks of addiction, the dangers of overdose associated with the medication, and their role and responsibilities regarding their treatment.
A provision of the treatment agreement would require patients to undergo baseline drug testing to establish a general assessment of the new patient, and periodic drug testing as deemed medically necessary in order to monitor adherence to existing patient treatment plans.
The treatment agreement and the baseline drug testing proposed in this legislation will give doctors another tool to ensure that patients using opioids are using them safely and as prescribed.
To be clear, the requirements in my legislation would not apply in medical emergencies, to patients with existing relationships with a medical provider, cancer patients, nor those who are terminally ill.
In addition to legislation, some of the best tools we have to combat opioid, drug, and alcohol addiction are education and advocacy. By empowering young leaders and equipping them with the knowledge to understand the reality of opioid and drug abuse, we are taking a huge step towards ensuring that the next generation is adequately prepared to tackle this mounting issue.
One such leader in our community is Nolan Deck of Hempfield High School in Landisville. Nolan recently won first prize in the statewide “Talk to Your Senator” video competition, a campaign launched to get middle school and high school students involved in legislative efforts to fight heroin and opioid abuse. It was sponsored by the Senate of Pennsylvania, with support from members of the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of PA.
I’m so pleased that an entry from our area was selected, and I couldn’t be prouder of the youth across the state who participated in this competition and engaged in a dialogue with their elected officials about a timely issue that impacts so many.
The trouble with addiction is that while it is certainly more painful for some than others, it truly affects us all. As such, we as a community have a responsibility to contribute to combatting this epidemic, whether that be through advocacy, education, legislative efforts, or even donations to our local first responder units – there is something that all of us can do to help win the fight against addiction.