WILKES-BARRE — Four months into his Opioid Disaster Declaration, Gov. Tom Wolf this week announced significant progress on several of the original initiatives that were part of the declaration aimed at increasing prevention, access to treatment and data collection for those suffering with opioid use disorder (OUD).
“Our continuing goal is to make forward progress in fighting the scourge that is the heroin and opioid crisis in Pennsylvania,” Gov. Wolf said in a news release. “The data from progress to date indicates we are achieving that goal. And we will continue to evaluate and advance initiatives to help all Pennsylvanians suffering from this disease and their families.”
Wolf presented progress by the 14-agency combined effort to fight the epidemic via the Opioid Command Center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, including:
• Calls to toll-free helpline, 1-800-662-4357, have increased by 56 percent since Jan. 1.
• 2,776 total calls have been placed.
• 2,379 of those callers have been connected to services.
• 1,858 of those callers have been connected to emergency treatment programs to include medication-assisted treatment, detox/crisis stabilization, inpatient and intensive outpatient services.
• The helpline has the capability to work with clients in 240 languages.
Naloxone distribution and saves
• 29,208 doses of naloxone were supplied to Centralized Coordinating Entities (CCEs), funded by Wolf’s naloxone initiative through PCCD.
• 15,446 doses of naloxone have been redistributed by CCEs to first response agencies.
• 1,436 overdoses were reversed using PCCD-provided naloxone. Law enforcement accounted for 586 of those; firefighters, 493; community programs, 232; EMS, 119; drug treatment providers, three; plus two others.
Another major initiative of Wolf’s disaster declaration is the creation of the Opioid Data Dashboard to help the public gain access to information about what resources are available locally, and where those resources need to be deployed. Since its launch, there have been nearly 16,000 visits to the dashboard.
“I am pleased with our progress under the disaster declaration, but there is much more work to be done,” Wolf said. “I look forward to seeing more results that address this epidemic so that we continue to see people suffering from the disease of addiction get the help they need to lead healthy, fulfilling lives.”
Toomey to EU: Hands
off Pennsylvania cheese
As the United States, Mexico, and Canada continue discussions about modifications to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, is calling on the Trump administration to address unfair trade barriers aimed at harming American dairy and cheese producers.
In a letter to U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer, 27 Republican and Democratic senators, led by Senators Toomey and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), urged the administration to enforce current trade commitments by Canada and Mexico on dairy products, and work to increase foreign market access for American cheese exporters, processors, and dairy farmers.
“Can you imagine walking into a grocery store and not being able to find parmesan or provolone because our cheese makers are not allowed to use those names?” Toomey said in a news release. “Pennsylvania is home to thousands of dairy farmers and artisan cheese makers who have spent generations cultivating products and brands that customers recognize. Any way you slice it, this ill-advised proposal would harm these industries.”
On April 21, the European Union and Mexico reached a revised trade agreement that grants European producers exclusive rights to use 340 food names, known as “geographical indications,” in Mexico. Although a list of the specific food names has not been released, media reports indicate the agreement included many food names — most notably of cheeses — that are considered generic in the U.S.
In the letter, the senators wrote, “In order to meet this objective, the United States must engage with Mexico on geographic indication restrictions to ensure that Mexico honors its existing trade commitments to the United States. These commitments allow American cheese exporters to continue using food names that Mexican consumers are familiar with. Anything less would grant European producers market share that American producers took decades to build and unjustly award them the future growth opportunities of those products.”
Officials tout cycling
benefits in Pennsylvania
During the recent “Bike to Work Week,” the state announced a series of planned improvements for bicyclists.
“We are updating the 2007 Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan with the goal of outlining a vision and framework for improving conditions for biking and walking,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. “Through our survey, we are especially interested in learning of and addressing the needs of those who walk and bicycle out of necessity.”
In addition to PennDOT, representatives from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Protection stressed their agencies’ perspective on the importance of cycling.
State forestland trails were the focus of the message from DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn.
“Whether it’s a leisurely circling of a lake, or a hard-driving climb up a mountain road, unlimited biking terrain and opportunities can be found within our 121 state parks and more than 2.2 million acres of state forestland,” she said. “We are blessed with 11,000 miles of trails, all offering bicyclists unlimited ways of seeing all those very special outdoor places we have to offer.”
DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell cited the environmental advantage to riding a bike.
“Riding a bike is one of the most fun ways to fight climate change and clean our air,” added McDonnell. “Whether you are biking to work, or to run errands, or even just for fun is a great way to get exercise, and helps cut down on tailpipe emissions that lead to climate change and poorer air quality.”
For more, visit the Ride a Bike page at PennDOT.gov in the “Travel in PA” tab.
$1M in grants will
promote Pa. wines
Gov. Tom Wolf this week announced the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has awarded grants totaling $999,989 to seven projects intended to enhance the Pennsylvania wine industry and increase production of Pennsylvania-made wines.
Act 39 of 2016 expanded the Pennsylvania Wine Marketing and Research Board and authorized the PLCB to approve up to $1 million annually for wine promotion. The first round of grants – a total of $999,934 for 13 projects – were issued by the PLCB in May 2017.
Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said Pennsylvania’s wine industry contributes $4.8 billion to the state’s economy.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.