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Photo by Dream Weaver // CC BY 2.0

Pennsylvania's opioid and heroin addiction crisis was declared a statewide disaster emergency by Governor Tom Wolf on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

The statewide emergency, which will expire in 90 days, will allow officials to pursue policy changes that may have been hampered in the past in order to address the mounting severity of the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania. 

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Wolf’s plan will involve aid to those who are addicted to opioids, especially those who may resist seeking medical help, as well as the creation of a new group focused on combating opioid addiction and overdose. The new group will be staffed by the heads of the state’s health, emergency, and law enforcement departments and will be tasked with coordinating treatment and preventative efforts. 

In the face of mounting opioid addiction rates — Pennsylvania has the fourth-highest overdose death rate in the United States — Penn students and faculty have also been working to fight the epidemic.

In the past few years, Penn researchers have researched opioid-related deaths, and several of them began working with Philadelphia programs on combating this problem. Penn faculty members — including Emergency Medicine professors Jeanmarie Perrone and Zachary Meisel —  were also part of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s task force earlier last year to “combat the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia.”  

Pennsylvania will be the eighth state which has addressed the national opioid crisis by declaring a disaster emergency.