Time to Act on Opioids

It’s time for us to act.

Our state ranked in the top five for U.S. drug overdose deaths in 2016, with almost 13 deaths per day. Between September 2016 and September 2017, Pennsylvania saw a staggering 81 percent increase in opioid-related emergency room visits. Shockingly, our state’s drug overdose rate is more than twice the national average. One in four of our families struggles with substance abuse. Drug overdoses are the new primary cause of death of Americans under 50, and opioids claimed more than 5,200 Pennsylvanians in 2017.

Statistics, however compelling, can’t convey the toll in human suffering that our communities have witnessed. From Philadelphia to Erie, we are all affected.

For the first time, a manmade crisis has inspired a Pennsylvania governor to declare a state of emergency (in January of this year). Our House and Senate have passed legislation to address the crisis from multiple angles, have held bipartisan hearings and formed the House PA Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education (PA HOPE) Caucus.

Against this backdrop, we are proud to announce our work on Battling Opioids, a project of PA Public Media stations WHYY, WITF, WLVT, WPSU, WQED, WQLN, and WVIA. In the coming months, we will help them share stories and host community conversations to amplify the voices of people affected by the opioid crisis. Please follow the project on Twitter and Facebook, visit BattlingOpioids.org, take part in a local conversation, and — if you live within reach — tune in to your local public television September 27 at 8 p.m. to watch the 60-minute documentary program and the round table discussion that follows.

September is National Addiction Awareness month, and we all have a role to play in alleviating the suffering and reversing the destructive trend.

For more information, please visit the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s excellent site on treating heroin and opioid addiction.