In this Edition:
Fighting Opioid Abuse and Drug Overdose
Opioid abuse and drug overdoses have become a serious issue here in Monroe and Northampton counties and throughout Pennsylvania. Since being sworn in as Senator of the 40th District, more than 180 individuals have fatally overdosed in the two counties. This excludes deaths resulting from prolonged drug abuse and motor vehicle accidents (DUI).
The issue has generated serious discussion in Harrisburg, with the General Assembly and Governor working together to provide resources and regulations necessary to combat the drug epidemic. An excessive reliance on prescription opiate pain medications must be prevented and the resources to help those with addiction must be made more readily available.
The following opioid-related legislation has been signed into law, in addition to the $15 million the Legislature devoted as part of the 2016-17 budget, to help fight the opioid abuse crisis.
Senate Bill 524 (Scarnati) - Now Act 80 of 2015, established the non-narcotic Medication Assisted Substance Abuse Treatment Grant Pilot Program within the Department of Corrections (DOC). The DOC was charged with administering the program and is also required to issue a report evaluating the pilot program’s effectiveness to the House and Senate Judiciary and Appropriations Committees within 18 months after the bill’s effective date.
Senate Bill 1164 (Pileggi) - Now Act 139 of 2015, also known as David’s Law, provides legal protection for witnesses, or Good Samaritans providing medical help at the scene of an overdose. In addition, it allowed naloxone, a synthetic drug that blocks opiate receptors in the nervous system and known as the brand name Narcan, to be prescribed to a third party, such as a friend or family member, and administered by law enforcement and firefighters.
Senate Bill 1180 (Vance) - Now Act 191 of 2014, expanded the types of drugs monitored under the state’s existing Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to include Schedule II through V controlled substances. It also created a Board within the Department of Health to establish and oversee an electronic data system listing. Please note that with the implementation of the PDMP, it is anticipated that reported heroin use will increase.
There are still a number of bills being considered of which I am a cosponsor to further address the drug epidemic. This pending legislation includes, but is not limited to:
SB 532 (Eichelberger) - Addresses the use and diversion of methadone while establishing guidelines for methadone clinics.
SB 1202 (Yaw) - Provides for licensing boards to require additional education in pain management and prescribing practices of opioids for medical professionals.
SB 1228 (Yaw, Bartolotta and Wozniak) - Provides that ER doctors cannot prescribe an opioid for more than seven days.
SB 1347 (Yaw) - Requires a health care professional to receive written consent from a minor’s parent or legal guardian in order to prescribe a medical treatment containing opioids, as well as to discuss the risks of addiction and dangers of overdose associated with the medication. Senate Bill 1347 also limits the prescription for a controlled substance containing an opioid to a seven-day duration unless there is a medical emergency that puts the child’s health or safety at risk. This legislation is part of a comprehensive approach to fighting the ongoing heroin and opioid addiction crisis in Pennsylvania.
SB 1348 (Yaw) - Requires prescription bottles containing opioids to have a label affixed concerning the addictive nature of the drug. If enacted, this stronger precaution would better educate the public of the inherent risks involved in using prescription opioids and facilitate a conversation between a patient and their pharmacist or doctor. Senate Bill 1348 is part of a comprehensive approach to fighting the ongoing heroin and opioid addiction crisis in Pennsylvania.
SB 1305 (Yaw) - Requires that insurance plans provide access to abuse-deterrent opioid analgesic drugs, and apply cost-sharing provisions for these products at the same level as the cost-sharing applied to other brand name and generic drugs covered under the insurance plans’ formularies.
Senate Bill 1336 (Yaw) – Requires county coroner’s and/or medical examiner’s in the state to report in writing to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) the death of any person resulting from a drug overdose, giving the time and place of the death and the related circumstances. The reports shall be made on forms prescribed by DDAP. The Department shall maintain the confidentiality of any identifying information received, which shall be used to communicate concerns to regulators and facilitate communication within the healthcare and legal systems about issues that could threaten health and public safety. Information can also be used to prepare aggregate statistics relating to deaths resulting from drug overdoses and include statistics in the annual report required under section 4 (9) of the Methadone Death and Incident Review Act.
Senate Bill 1346 (Yaw) - Amends the Medical Practices Act of 1985 requiring the state Board of Medicine to implement mandatory Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum in Pennsylvania’s medical schools in order to have the most current and up-to-date information on proper opioid prescribing practices. State funding will be dependent on implementation of the curriculum, and the curriculum will be evaluated every three years. As part of the new Safe Opioid Prescribing Curriculum, students will also be required to demonstrate proficiency in the use of naloxone, an antidote for an opioid overdose.
Additional proposed legislation as yet to be introduced but co-sponsorships requests have been circulating. These proposals include:
It is encouraging to see all parties coming together at the state level to confront the drug epidemic affecting our communities. This is a faceless adversary that affects our families, neighbors and friends. No one is immune. We must continue the momentum and build on our successes to ensure the safety and health of our communities.
Further Resources and Efforts to Combat the Drug Crisis
In addition to legislative action, several local and community-wide efforts are taking place to help combat the drug crisis .
August Episode of Legislative Report Show with PennDOT
In my August episode of Legislative Report, I interview Ron Young of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) District 5 to discuss current and future road and bridge projects in Monroe and Northampton Counties.
Healthy Living Series: Shingles Vaccine at the West End Fair
I will be continuing my Healthy Living Series in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to offer low-cost shingles vaccine shots at the 2016 West End Fair.
On Wednesday, August 24, the Department of Health will administer the vaccines to qualifying individuals at my booth at the West End Fair (570 Fairgrounds Road, Gilbert, PA) between the hours of noon – 3:00 p.m. The vaccines will be administered on a first-come-first-served basis.
The $5.00 low-cost shingles vaccine shots are available to people age 50 or older who are uninsured or underinsured. This service is not available to anyone with Medicare Part D or insurance that already covers the vaccination. The Pennsylvania Department of Health will accept a personal check or money order made payable to “Commonwealth of PA.” Cash will not be accepted.
Senator Scavello to Host ‘Get Outdoors PA Festival’
Senator Mario Scavello, DCNR Bureau of State Parks, and Lehigh Valley Greenways Partnership are hosting the Get Outdoors PA Festival on Saturday, September 24, 2016 from noon – 4 p.m., rain or shine, at the Jacobsburg Environmental Educational Center, 400 Belfast Road, Nazareth, PA. This is an exciting day as it is also National Public Lands Day, National Bike to Park Day, and National Hunting & Fishing Day – the perfect day for family outdoor fun!
The FREE outdoor expo is designed to highlight the Lehigh Valley Greenways Partnership’s outdoor experiences. Exhibitors from the Partnership will have hands-on activities for everyone to enjoy. Children and parents can meet Smokey the Bear, Della the Mule and Woodsy the Owl and, practice archery and fishing. Light refreshments and many other activities will be available to enjoy; all free and fun!
An elective scheduled of events include; 12:30 p.m., Live Animal Presentation (indoor) by Wildlands Conservancy; 2:00 p.m., Nature Walk led by Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center; 2:30, Stream Study led by Bushkill Stream Conservancy and; Get Your Tail on the Trail led by Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor and St. Luke’s Health Network.
All activities are outdoor except two scheduled events; 12:30 p.m., Live Animal Presentation by Wildlands Conservancy and; 1 p.m. - 2 p.m., a panel comprised of Senator Scavello, Chairman of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee; Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Dunn; Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Matthew Hough; and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission Executive Director John Arway will present an update and receive questions and comments from the audience.
New Law for Rear-facing Car Seats
A new law taking effect in Pennsylvania requires that children under two must be transported in rear-facing car seats to better protect their head, neck and spine. Police will issue warnings for one year, followed by fines up to $100 plus costs. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation says children should remain in rear-facing seats until they reach the manufacturer's height or weight limits.
Dept. of Corrections Creates Interactive Map
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has created an interactive map that shows admissions to and releases from the DOC by county and year. The map provides statewide admissions totals for the years 2013, 2014 and 2015, broken down by type of admission, such as new court commitments and parole violators. In addition, individual county information includes gender, race and risk scores. The risk score determines an offender’s general risk to re-offend after his/her release from prison.
Dept. of Environmental Protection Studied Zika Virus Risk
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has released results of surveillance for Aedes mosquitoes, which have been found to be vectors of the Zika virus. At this time, there have not been any cases of Zika transmitted locally in Pennsylvania, nor have mosquitoes tested positive for the virus.
Around the 40th District
Local AARP Chapter Hosts Annual Picnic
Thank you to the AARP Chapter 633 for recognizing some of those who are
working to support and protect our senior citizens. Pleased to see so many
seniors at this year's Annual Picnic. I was truly honored to receive the
Community Executive Leadership award.
Pocono Mountain Assoc. of Realtors Host Summer Outing
I was pleased to join members of the Pocono Mountain Association of Realtors last evening at their Summer Outing where I had the opportunity to discuss my efforts to address school property taxes in the Senate. Thank you PMAR for inviting me.
West End Fair
The West End Fair will be held from August 21st to the 27th.
As one of the largest County Fairs in Pennsylvania, the West End Fair has
plenty of fun for all members of the family. Stop by my booth for
information on programs and state agencies. Learn more
Blue Valley Farm Show
The annual Blue Valley Farm Show, a Northampton County Fair event with rides, live entertainment, food, bingo, competitive exhibits, contests, flea market, arts and crafts, and more will be held from August 23rd to the 27th at 707 American Bangor Road in Bangor.
Local 9/11 Emergency Responder Announces Memorial Event
On September 11th, 2016, James Hagner will set out to pull Road Scholar Transport’s Rolling Memorial awareness truck, weighing in at 18,222 lbs., wearing just a harness to help raise money for The FealGood Foundation.
Founded by John Feal, a construction worker who lost half of his foot in the rubble of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks and developed WTC Cough, The FealGood Foundation aims to assist 9/11 first responders who were injured and their families, along with helping to spread awareness about the catastrophic health effects 9/11 had on these individuals.
Hagner was one of the responders, a volunteer fireman, that day. “On 9/11 everything stopped. I got there at 8:00 and slept there for two weeks. I didn’t come home and I spent 43 days at the site.” Hagner, now 44, has been disabled since the age of 36. After enduring a diabetic coma in May 2013, the doctors had told him that he had the lungs of a 92-year-old. “I never had asthma and it began there and worked its way up,” says Hagner. “For being a first responder of 9/11 and a tier 4, I was only given 2 years to live.” That’s when things changed.
Four days later, Hagner went on a diet and started working out, losing 144 lbs. in only 6 months. “Me being in the United States Marines, I was in the top of my class and graduated with honors. I always excelled in anything I ever done and I gave 110%. I didn’t quit. I went to the gym three times a day and lost a lot of weight.”
Congratulations to James Hagner on his healthy living accomplishments. For more information on the event and James' story, please visit http://bit.ly/2aUYlpq. I hope to see you there!
On the second Tuesday of each month, the American Legion holds a Veterans Assistance Day at our Tannersville district office.
The next Veterans Assistance Day is September 13th. The district office is located at 2989 Route 611, Suite 103 in Tannersville.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., a service officer with the American Legion Pennsylvania Department will be on site to assist veterans with issues including: compensation and pension claims, education benefits, enrollment in the VA health care system, burial and survivor benefits, state benefits, and obtaining military personnel and medical records.
Veterans do not need to be a member of the American Legion to receive these services. Please contact the Tannersville office to schedule an appointment at 570-620-4326.
Thursdays on Pocono 96.7 – Gary in the Morning
Please join me next Thursday, August 25th on Pocono 96.7 - Gary in the Morning in the car, at work, or in your home. I will be discussing the latest from Harrisburg and answering your questions at 7 AM.
You can listen online athttp://radio.securenetsystems.net/v5/WABT
If you have a public event benefiting our community in Monroe or Northampton Counties, please feel free to contact my office at (570) 620-4326 or by email email@example.com to include the event in my E-Newsletter at no charge. Requests should include details about the community event such as the time, location and the public purpose.
Senate Box 203040
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3040
Phone: (717) 787-6123
Northampton County Office
2 North Robinson Avenue
Pen Argyl, PA 18072
Phone (610) 863-12001200
FAX (610) 863-1214
9 a.m.- 5 p.m.