House Republican and Democratic Policy Committees Join Forces to Tackle Opioid Crisis

HARRISBURG—Throughout the summer and fall, Republicans and Democrats in the state Legislature are joining forces to attempt to tackle the state’s opioid crisis. 

Led by House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) and House Minority Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster), members of the House of Representatives and state Senate will be traveling the state to gather testimony from law enforcement, medical professionals, treatment centers, employers, educators, advocates and everyday Pennsylvanians about the state’s drug epidemic and how it is impacting communities. 

At a press conference on June 24, Speaker of the House Mike Turzai made the request of the governor to call a special session this fall to continue the work of addressing the addiction crisis. Gov. Tom Wolf stood with Republican and Democrat members of the House of Representatives to support the need for heightened attention on this issue. 

“The epidemic we face is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue,” Benninghoff said. “It is a crisis impacting Pennsylvanians from every region, background and walk of life. Opioid addiction does not discriminate – it is killing our young people, our veterans, our friends, our family members and our neighbors. Working together is critical so we can get our arms around this growing crisis before it takes more precious lives.” 

Opioids are a class of drugs derived from or pharmacologically similar to opiates. While they are effective pharmaceuticals for killing pain, they carry with them a significant risk of addiction. Some data suggest that 60 percent of prescription opioid deaths occur in patients with no history of substance abuse and who are only prescribed an opioid by one health care practitioner. In 2015, 3,383 Pennsylvanians died from overdose of drugs. 

Testifiers will discuss the effectiveness of current strategies being used to combat addiction and what other tools, resources and services may be needed. At the conclusion of the tour, the joint committee will make legislative and policy recommendations for the House and Senate to consider when they reconvene this fall for a special legislative session. 

“The opioid crisis is devastating families across the state,” Sturla said. “It’s vital that we come together to address this problem from all angles, including education, prevention and treatment. I look forward to working across the aisle to tackle the opioid crisis and develop meaningful solutions that will ultimately save lives.” 

Today, Benninghoff and Sturla announced the following tentative hearing schedule: 

  • Monday, Aug. 1, in Venango County.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 2, in Pittsburgh.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 3, in Westmoreland County.
  • Monday, Aug. 15, in Bucks County.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 16, in Philadelphia.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 30, in Lycoming County.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 31, in Scranton.
  • Thursday, Sept. 1, in York County.

More details, along with a list of testifiers, will be made available prior to each hearing. The hearings are being held in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education Caucus, also known as the PA-HOPE Caucus, a bipartisan group of legislators committed to high-quality prevention and treatment of substance abuse. 

Through hearings and meetings across the Commonwealth, the House Majority and Minority Policy Committees gather valuable expert and local input on important issues to generate policy proposals aimed at improving the quality of life in the Keystone State. 

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