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Gov. Wolf Calls Special Legislative Session To Deal With Opioid Crisis

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- At the Gateway Rehab Center in Moon, Gov. Tom Wolf said he and legislative leaders have agreed to a special session to address the growing problem of Pennsylvanians addicted to prescription drugs and illegal opioids.

"We're all bound and determined that we're going to get together. We're going to look at this issue and try to come to terms with it," said Wolf.

Wolf said the growing number of deaths -- that cut across race and economics -- demands action.

"2,500 people died in 2014 from drug overdose -- 2500, that's more than died in traffic accidents. The next year, last year, 3,300 died. And this year, so far, we are now in August, it's going to be worse. It's going to be worse. This is an epidemic," said Wolf.

Republican lawmaker Mark Mustio of Moon praised the governor for taking the lead.

"This issue would not be forefront had you not used your bully pulpit, and we need to thank you for that," said Mustio to the governor.

Wolf said the state needs a comprehensive approach to treating thousands with substance use disorder.

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Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas said Medicaid expansion under Obamacare has helped many.

"More people than ever in the state are receiving drug and alcohol services. About 650,000 folks are enrolled in the Medicaid expansion -- 62,000 of them in the first year were folks who accessed drug and alcohol services," noted Dallas.

But thousands are not getting treatment.

That's where the Centers of Excellence like Gateway come in.

But the governor added, "The way we're trying to treat it now is very costly and very inefficient. In many ways, we're trying to arrest our way to a cure here."

Wolf said 70 to 80 percent of our prison population is jailed because of crimes stemming from a substance abuse disorder.

Prison, says Wolf, costs taxpayers seven times more than a treatment program.

No date has been set for this special legislative session, but Wolf expects it this fall.

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