Opioids

Following Damaging Reports, PA Congressman Marino Defends His Opioid Law

Nov 10, 2017
Susan Walsh / AP

Last month, The Washington Post and “60 Minutes” ran a damaging story about Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Tom Marino, (PA-10), which accused him of ushering a bill through Congress that tied the Drug Enforcement Agency’s hands in their effort to stop distributors from flooding the black market with opioid painkillers.

Whistleblowers in the DEA say the bill has directly interfered with their attempts to stem the nation’s opioid crisis.

Office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro

Six people are charged after authorities made the first known seizure in Allegheny County of a deadly opioid that's used to tranquilize elephants.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro says the six were selling $750,000 worth of carfentanil, fentanyl and heroin. Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid that's considered 10,000 times more potent than morphine.

Shapiro says his office and the Allegheny County Police Department "took down major drug dealers selling poison and carrying guns on the streets of Allegheny County.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

A Pittsburgh hospital is opening a unit for that will allow new mothers to stay with their opioid-addicted infants.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Magee-Womens Hospital says the unit will initially consist of six rooms.

Toby Talbot / AP

President Trump recently declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency. It’s still unclear how much funding, if any, is tied to that declaration, but whatever resources are marshaled will likely fund work done by people most commonly thought of as fighting on the front lines of the epidemic, like social workers, addiction counselors and physicians.

An-Li Herring / 90.5 WESA

*UPDATED  Nov. 3, 2017 at 12:32 p.m.

Pittsburgh's only contested city council race this year pits Democrat Anthony Coghill against Republican Cletus Cibrone-Abate for the District 4 seat.

90.5 WESA

Republican incumbent County Councilman Tom Baker has a challenger for the seat he’s held since 2014 thanks to a successful write-in campaign from Democrat Jack Betkowski.

A week before the primary election, Betkowski, who is a Ross Township commissioner, decided to run for a seat to represent Ross, Moon, North Fayette, Findlay and other northeastern townships. He said he wants to increase public transparency and takes issue with the fact that meetings are held Downtown at 5 p.m.

Allegheny County / Campaign of Mike Dell

Voters in the Eastern municipalities of Allegheny County will chose between a longtime incumbent and an accountant for County Council’s District 8 seat Nov. 7.

Susan Walsh / AP

After a damaging report on the opioid crisis from “60 Minutes” and The Washington Post, Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino withdrew his name this week as the next possible drug czar under the Trump Administration.

Whistleblowers and former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration employees say Marino, a Republican from Lycoming County, lead the way to pass a bill that essentially handcuffed them from doing their job.

Tony Talbot / AP

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is using $4 million in federal aid to help start up four regional medication-assisted programs to treat people struggling with drug addiction.

The $1 million grants announced Tuesday will be anchored by four health systems in Pennsylvania.

They are going to Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network, Danville-based Geisinger, York-based WellSpan Health and Harrisburg's Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, a collaboration between Penn State Health and PinnacleHealth.

Patrick Sison / AP

Beaver County announced Monday it is suing for millions of dollars in damages from opioid manufacturers,  drug distributors and physicians.

The civil suit claims 23 drug companies and doctors led consumers to believe that opioids were not addictive and the county spent taxpayer dollars responding to hundreds of deaths and overdoses.

PA Offering $5M Worth Of Naloxone To First Responders

Oct 6, 2017
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Pennsylvania will spend $5 million on the overdose-reversal medication naloxone to help first responders fight the toll of the opioid epidemic, state officials announced Thursday.

Toby Talbot / AP

A southeastern Pennsylvania county sued 11 pharmaceutical companies Thursday for marketing tactics that county officials say misrepresent the dangers of long-term opioid usage while a national overdose crisis continues to kill tens of thousands of people annually.

Delaware County alleged in its complaint that the companies and three consulting physicians engaged in promotional campaigns that encouraged prolonged and widespread use of their powerful painkillers, despite knowing that in doing so consumers risked damaging health effects and addiction.

Leftover Painkillers Driving Opioid Crisis, Penn Researcher Says

Sep 18, 2017
Emma Lee / WHYY

A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania says one of the big narratives explaining the onset of  the opioid crisis is wrong. 

Peggy Compton, a professor at Penn's School of Nursing, said the public often misunderstands the role opioid prescriptions have played in the crisis. The epidemic wasn't caused by people taking pills prescribed by their doctor to treat pain, she said. That idea, she said during a discussion among pain researchers at Penn, is a "myth."

"Simply by giving prescribed opioids to patients with pain, we are not creating addicts," Compton said Friday.

Mary Altaffer / AP

A former Pennsylvania police officer who was found unconscious of an apparent overdose at the station has been charged with stealing drugs seized as evidence and hammering a hole in the wall of the secured evidence room.

Former Johnstown officer William Slisz was arraigned Thursday on charges including burglary and evidence tampering.

State police say Slisz began stealing heroin from a temporary evidence locker in 2015 and later stole from the secure room. They say he then lost access to the room and crawled through the ceiling into a colleague's office to get the key.

frankieleon / Flickr

A new University of Pittsburgh-led study reveals Pennsylvania Medicaid enrollees prescribed an opioid are still highly likely to continue that prescription after an overdose from a legal opioid or heroin. 

Evan Vucci / AP

Over the last week, President Donald Trump has vacillated about how to handle the opioid epidemic that has wracked much of the U.S., including Pennsylvania.

Matt Rourke / AP

A commission created by President Donald Trump asked him to declare a state of emergency over the nation’s opioid epidemic. Earlier this week, he declined. On Thursday, according to a White House pool report, he changed his mind.

The declaration would free the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to grant additional funding for resources, address leadership shortfalls and make changes to Medicaid coverage.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Eighteen members of a SWAT team are OK after they were exposed to a deadly chemical during a raid early Wednesday, Pittsburgh police said.

As the SWAT team entered the West End home, a table covered with powered drugs was overturned, sending what authorities believed to be a dangerous synthetic opioid called fentanyl wafting into the air, according to a criminal complaint.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Placing much of the blame on smoking, a study chronicling the ongoing health crisis in Appalachia has concluded that the 13-state region suffers from a growing disparity in infant mortality and life expectancy, two key indicators of "a nation's health and well-being."

Keith Srakocic / AP

Players arrived at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe this week for the start of Steelers training camp, but running back Le'Veon Bell did not. He's in the middle of negotiating a franchise contract with the team, but is feeling pressure from his teammates.

Methadone Clinic Operator Gets Prison Term In Pill Mill Case

Jul 27, 2017
Toby Talbot / AP

A defense attorney and a courtroom full of supporters depicted a woman who ran a methadone clinic for 20 years as a cross between a den mother and an angel of mercy to southwestern Pennsylvania's growing population of opioid addicts, but a federal prosecutor countered that she was a "greedy" businesswoman who defrauded Medicaid to feed a gambling habit.

U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer opted for the middle ground Thursday.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Calling the case "an American tragedy," a federal judge has sentenced a heroin dealer to serve more than two decades in prison for his role in the overdose death of a 20-year-old Pennsylvania man.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The state government isn't doing enough to measure the effectiveness of its addiction treatment programs that can be helpful in the fight against the epidemic of heroin and prescription drug overdoses, auditors said Thursday.

The audit launched last year by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale produced recommendations that three state agencies — the departments of Human Services, Corrections, and Drug and Alcohol Programs — do more to assess whether their addiction treatment programs are successful in curing people. It also warns that more money is needed to fund the effort.

Toby Talbot / AP

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced plans to supply nearly 300,000 drug deactivation and disposal pouches to a dozen counties hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

Everyone receiving a schedule II narcotic such as Percocet, oxycodone and fentanyl at a participating pharmacy will be offered a free Deterra disposal pouch, beginning August 1, Shapiro said.

“To be honest with you, at first I couldn’t believe it worked," Shapiro said of the drug disposal technology.

Workers Compensation Institute

The use of prescribed opioid painkillers among workers' compensation claimants is falling in Pennsylvania at a rate slower than most other states.

The Workers Compensation Research Institute, or WCRI, looked at the number of prescriptions and the strength of the drugs given to injured workers who were off work for at least seven days but did not have to have surgery. Using data from 2009 to 2015, the institute found the use of opioids decreased by 10 percent in Pennsylvania.

Rate Of Hospitalizations For Opioid Overdoses Rising Rapidly In PA

Jun 29, 2017
Toby Talbot / AP

Many who overdose on an opioid in Pennsylvania never need to go to a hospital. Some are treated by first responders, or bystanders who carry naloxone, a drug that can halt an overdose before it becomes fatal.

Some succumb without help.

But a growing number of Pennsylvanians are winding up as hospital patients as the result of opioids — 66 percent more in 2016 than in 2014. The numbers do not include emergency room visits.

Overcoming Opioids: Easing An Epidemic 1 Doctor At A Time

Jun 17, 2017
Carla K. Johnson / AP

Even doctors can be addicted to opioids, in a way: It's hard to stop prescribing them.

Melissa Jones is on a mission to break doctors of their habit, and in the process try to turn the tide of the painkiller epidemic that has engulfed 2 million Americans.

It was in doctors' offices where the epidemic began, and it's in doctors' offices where it must be fought. So Jones is using some of the same tactics pharmaceutical sales forces used to push their potent pills into communities — this time, to get them out.

Charles Krupa / AP

Pittsburgh-area law enforcement agencies are equipping K-9 handlers with naloxone as reports of dangerous opioid overdoses continue to sweep the Midwest.

Allegheny County Police Officer Steve Dawkins said dangerous situations are in his 4-year-old partner's job description. 

iStock / WITF

As Philadelphia heads for a record year of drug overdose deaths, a task force is proposing a series of actions, from combatting stigma to considering allowing safe sites where drug users could inject heroin.

Mayor Jim Kenney was joined by Governor Tom Wolf in outlining the task force's findings Friday.

Kenney convened the 23-member group in January to focus on developing a plan to combat the city's opioid epidemic.

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