Pennsylvania Opioids

PA Struggles To Assess the Scope of Overdose Epidemic

As the CDC compiles statistics for 2017, certain states like Pennsylvania are coming to grips with a surging opioid crisis that shows no signs of ending. As many as 15 people a day are overdosing and dying in the Keystone State.

As reported by the Meadville Tribune, everyone knows the state’s opioid crisis is bad. But how bad? Inconsistent reporting makes that a frustrating unknown.

Republican state Sen. Gene Yaw, of Lycoming County, wants Pennsylvania to fix that. He has proposed legislation that would require more uniform standards and training and establish a tighter deadline for reporting drug deaths.

“Right now, they say that 15 people per day are dying from drug overdoses,” Yaw said. “We don’t know if that’s accurate. If it’s higher than that, maybe we should be investing more money” in fighting the drug crisis.

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The CDC calculated that there were 4,648 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2016. The DEA put the death toll for the year at 4,642. Both estimates were about 5 percent lower than the overdose tally included in a report by the state coroners association. The coroners put the 2016 death count at 4,884.

Neither the CDC nor the DEA have released 2017 data yet.

“Opioid mortality rate changes were considerably understated in Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Jersey, and Arizona, but dramatically overestimated in South Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Connecticut, Florida, and Kentucky,” according to a summary of the work by Christopher Ruhm, a researcher from the University of Virginia.

“Increases in heroin death rates were understated in most states, and by large amounts in Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Alabama,” according to the summary.

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To learn more about how legislators in Pennsylvania are trying to get an accurate view of the opioid crisis, please visit the Meadville Tribune.

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