READING, December 6, 2021 – State Senator Katie Muth (D- Berks/Chester/Montgomery), Chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Policy Committee, today joined Senators Judy Schwank and Christine Tartaglione to host a public hearing on evaluating and improving drug treatment centers in Pennsylvania.
“The alarming rates of substance abuse and drug overdoses have been magnified throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. And when individuals and their families reach out for help and seek treatment, they do not have the resources and information available to make an informed choice about treatment facilities. Pennsylvania families deserve better,” Senator Muth said. “Today’s policy hearing allowed our Committee to hear from families who have tragically lost loved ones to addiction, and it also afforded us an opportunity to discuss possible legislative solutions and policy changes that can improve the evaluation process and treatment outcomes of Pennsylvania’s drug treatment centers. Patient outcome survey data should be guiding treatment plans, not insurance companies that often deny coverage for the care required for successful recovery.”
Pennsylvania has one of the highest rates of drug overdose in the nation and drug overdose deaths have increased in 46 of 67 counties in Pennsylvania throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics indicated that there were over 100,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States during the 12-month period ending in April 2021, an increase of 28.5% from prior year.
“We must rethink our approach to adequately address the ongoing opioid epidemic, and one way to do that is to look at drug treatment centers. Individuals taking the crucial step of seeking treatment for addiction need to be given access to all the information they need to make the right decision for their own particular circumstances,” Schwank said. “This hearing provided us an opportunity to learn directly from individuals impacted by addiction, treatment providers and state regulators. It will give us a chance to better understand what factors make drug treatment more effective.”
Senator Schwank has introduced two bills – Senate Bill 975 and Senate Bill 976 – to address issues with Pennsylvania’s drug treatment facilities and recovery homes. Senate Bill 975 would require the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) to distribute an annual survey to all substance use disorder treatment centers and recovery homes operating in PA, record, and publish online for public access the responses provided by those treatment centers and recovery homes. Senate Bill 976 would prohibit any treatment center in PA to refuse admittance to anyone reporting to a treatment facility requesting medical or psychological services addressing substance use disorder – even if an individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time they report. It would also prohibit any health insurance company operating in PA from refusing coverage for admittance and provision of medical and psychological services.
“Today was a crucial step in addressing the crisis that is addiction, and the failure of treatment that surrounds it,” Tartaglione said. “The shifting demographics of addiction and overdoses show us that there is no community in this commonwealth that has not been touched by its devastation, from Erie to Philly and Allentown to Pittsburgh, the PA Senate Democrats are dedicated to bettering and expanding addiction treatment services offered.”
The Senate Democratic Policy Committee heard from several panelists at Reading Area Community College that included representatives from the Opioid Crisis Action Network, the Self-Help Movement, the Caron Foundation, the Council on Chemical Abuse, and the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.
All submitted testimony from today’s hearing and the full video is available at SenatorMuth.com/Policy
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Panel 1: Affected People
Panel 2: Care Providers
Panel 3: Policy Solutions