Ortitay Proposes Legislation to Combat Addiction
HARRISBURG — Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Washington/Allegheny) today introduced two bills to address the opioid epidemic, which is ravaging Pennsylvania and is evidenced by a research brief released by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4).

“Recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data shows Pennsylvania had the highest percentage increase in drug overdose deaths of any state from 2016 to 2017,” Ortitay said. “Even more startling is that 14 states saw a decrease in overdose deaths over the same time period.

“The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council today released a research brief showing hospitalizations for newborns suffering from drug withdrawal have increased more than 1,000 percent during the past 16 years. These newborns are more likely to face complications such as low-birth weight, prematurity, difficulty feeding and respiratory distress. In addition, the average hospital stay was 17.1 days for these newborns as compared to 3.5 days for all other newborns. It is painfully obvious what we are doing to battle addiction is not working. We must try something new not just for those addicted, but for innocent babies too.”

House Bill 2200 would require all state agencies to report and detail the efforts they have undertaken to implement state law related to addiction, suggest action that needs to be taken and suggest any new laws. This information would be compiled into a report. In addition, the bill would require Pennsylvania’s attorney general to marshal all Pennsylvania plaintiffs seeking damages from the pharmaceutical industry so that the industry would be held accountable to taxpayers. Next, the bill would allow a state of emergency to be declared whether it is due to another addiction crisis or public health emergency, like a flu pandemic. Finally, the bill would require the Department of State to report how it is implementing the requirement that continuing medical education be offered on the effectiveness of warm hand off to addiction treatment for those flagged in the state’s prescription drug monitoring program or rescued by Narcan.

“Many laws already are on the books related to controlled substances and addiction, but they are not working as overdose deaths continue to rise,” Ortitay said. “We need to make sure laws that are in place are being implemented fully. I am hopeful that by taking a step back and assessing what the state is doing, we can find a path to success.

“While I am pleased the governor brought attention to this public health crisis through his disaster declaration, he had to fit this epidemic into the state’s disaster emergency law,” Ortitay added. “My bill would remove barriers to marshaling resources and attention to public health emergencies. Every day counts, and our laws should not be hamstringing action when it is needed.”

House Bill 2201 would create standard guidelines medical professionals must follow when prescribing opioids. The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs in 2014 created a Safe and Effective Prescribing Practice Task Force, which developed voluntary guidelines for 10 medical specialties on the treatment of pain. This bill would require prescribers to follow the task force’s current voluntary and subject to medical review guidelines. These procedures would have to be followed, regardless if the person is insured privately or covered by a public program like Medicaid. In addition, the guidelines would apply to all pain treatment, whether from a work injury, car accident or medical condition.

“While I respect medical professionals’ expertise in choosing the best care for their patients, we must make some bold changes to stem the tide of addiction,” Ortitay said. “The current voluntary guidelines are not working. It’s time for action.”

The bills will be assigned to the House Human Services Committee.

The 46th Legislative District includes Collier and South Fayette townships and Bridgeville, Heidelberg, McDonald and Oakdale boroughs in Allegheny County. It also encompasses Canton, Cecil, Mt. Pleasant, Robinson and Smith townships and Burgettstown, McDonald and Midway boroughs in Washington County.

Representative Jason Ortitay
46th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Tracy Polovick
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