Rep. Bizzarro: Opioid crisis requires immediate legislative action

HARRISBURG, June 23 – State Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, today joined Gov. Tom Wolf and a large group of bipartisan legislators at a Capitol news conference to detail upcoming work to combat Pennsylvania’s opioid crisis.

“Unfortunately, opioid and heroin addiction are ravaging communities in every part of the commonwealth,” Bizzarro said. “Pennsylvanians of all races, religions and incomes are affected. If we don’t act now, a situation that’s already pretty dire will get even worse.”

In the Rotunda, the governor, along with House leaders, announced the possibility of a special legislative session in the fall to prompt further action on the opioid crisis, in addition to several joint House Democratic and Republican Policy Committee hearings focused on the issue throughout the summer.

The governor also outlined the recommendations from the Task Force and Advisory Committee on Opioid Prescription Drug Proliferation. A pair of legislative recommendations, H.B. 1737 and H.R. 590, recently passed the House. Other recommendations include requiring doctors and pharmacists to attend three hours of opioid and addiction-related training before obtaining relevant licenses and requiring insurance plans to provide access to abuse-deterrent opioid drugs.

“It’s heartbreaking to hear from people in our communities who’ve lost loved ones to this growing epidemic,” Bizzarro said. “The legislature has taken up several important measures on the opioid crisis so far, including making the life-saving drug naloxone more readily available in our communities, but there’s still much more work to do.”

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency reports approximately 2,500 Pennsylvanians died from opioid overdoses in 2014. In addition, according to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, opioid overuse and abuse cost the state more than $12 million in hospitalization costs in 2012.

“I’m encouraged by today’s bipartisan showing of support that there will be real progress made on this issue in the coming months,” Bizzarro said. “At the end of the day, working together will give us the best opportunity to help eradicate this crisis from our communities.”