HARRISBURG (KDKA) - Pennsylvania's fentanyl crisis is costing taxpayers billions, according to a new report by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.
DePasquale released his findings on Wednesday in a report called "A Deadly Dose: Fentanyl's Impact in Pennsylvania."
The report says Pennsylvania taxpayers pay about $25 billion per year when it comes to the effects of the opioid and fentanyl crisis. Health care, treatment and criminal justice costs are all factored into that figure, as well as lost productivity.
At least $178 million of taxpayer money went towards covering opioid-related inpatient hospital stays for Medicaid recipients alone.
According to the report, fentanyl, a synthetic drug that studies say is about 50 times stronger than heroin, is responsible for a 65 percent increase in overdose deaths between 2015 and 2017.
With the report, DePasquale made ten recommendations:
- "The human and financial costs of the opioid crisis are immeasurable and will continue as the supply shifts to fentanyl. These costs must continue to be addressed at all levels of government.
- In U.S.-China negotiations, the Trump administration should clearly prioritize and provide incentives for the Chinese government to block exports of fentanyl and its precursors.
- Congress must use its oversight authority to ensure that the Trump administration is appropriately funding and tasking its agencies to implement and enforce new laws — and laws Congress has already passed — to confront the fentanyl crisis. Congress must not allow the Trump administration to focus on actions not supported by data about how fentanyl gets into the U.S.
- The General Assembly should legalize fentanyl test strips for use across Pennsylvania.
- State officials should continue to fund naloxone distribution and lift any barriers to access for healthcare workers, opioid users or family members.
- State officials should expand partnerships with local authorities, physicians and advocacy groups to reinforce the effectiveness of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), to diminish lingering stigma of its use and to adequately fund a range of MAT options in prisons, jails and recovery facilities.
- The Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine should do as much as it can to simplify the requirements for X-waivers to prescribe buprenorphine/Suboxone and other MAT prescriptions to increase convenient access to physicians and healthcare workers to treat more opioid users who want to recover, and eliminate waiver limitations for nurse practitioners.
- The governor and General Assembly should ensure they are not inadvertently creating barriers to treatment for opioid users.
- State officials should consider student loan repayment, home and auto loans, and other benefits to steer students — and mid-career workers — to the fields of addiction medicine, behavioral health sciences and nursing. The governor's Workforce Development Command Center could be part of this process.
- The state should help counties fund certifications and deployment of Certified Recovery Specialists."
You can read the full report here.
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