Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is hoping a newly formed working group will be able to turn the tide of heroin overdose deaths in the Commonwealth.
Corbett is calling for the working group, which will be chaired by Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Gary Tennis, to put a report on his desk by September.
“Yes I know that’s an aggressive time frame and I know that’s across the summer,” Corbett said. “We don’t have the time to wait.”
At the same time Corbett is calling on the state legislature to look for solutions it can implement. Among those solutions, according to the governor, should be a statewide prescription drug monitoring system.
“It will help stem the tide of this crisis threatening the future of our children, our neighbors and our friends,” said Corbett.
Prescription drug abuse often serves as the gateway to heroin abuse. In fact, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately 82 percent of those trying heroin for the first time have previously used prescription pain drugs.
Corbett said heroin over deaths have increased in Pennsylvania by 437 percent since 1990 with nearly 3,000 deaths being reported since 2009. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention reports more people die each year from heroin than from car crashes.
“We need to educate our citizens,” said Corbett. “And we can’t stop educating after one time [because] every year we get a new generation coming into schools, every year we get new parents, every year we get new users. That education has to continue.”
The working group has been charged with holding hearings across the state in an effort to find programs that are working and take input from experts and everyday citizens.
The group is also charged with find ways for healthcare, law enforcement and community groups to build partnerships and better cooperate to combat the problem.