Pa. health secretary: 'Sustainable funding' needed to attack opioid crisis

Pa. health secretary: 'Sustainable funding' needed to attack opioid crisis
© Kristoffer Tripplaar

As Congress grapples with how to tackle the opioid epidemic, Pennsylvania’s top health official said Tuesday that long-term funding for states is key to helping drive down overdose death rates.

“What we’re going to need is sustainable funding over the next five to 10 years to deal with this opioid crisis, to deal with aspects of prevention, rescue and then treatment,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, the secretary of health in Pennsylvania, a state the opioid epidemic has hit particularly hard.

Earlier this year, Congress passed a two-year budget deal that included $6 billion to address the opioid crisis and mental health.

“It’s a huge public health problem, and we simply are not meeting it with the bluntness and plain-spokenness and dollars that we need to,” Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Budowsky: 2020 Dems should debate on Fox Overnight Health Care: How 2020 Dems want to overhaul health care | Brooklyn parents sue over measles vaccination mandate | Measles outbreak nears record MORE (D-Ohio) said at an event Tuesday hosted by The Hill and sponsored by Everfi and the Prescription Drug Safety Network.

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Brown, as well as Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore Capito20 Dems demand no more money for ICE agents, Trump wall We can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill MORE (R-W.Va.), detailed efforts underway to pass opioid legislation this year, saying it’s an issue Republicans and Democrats have been able to come together on even in a hyperpartisan Congress.

The event largely centered around youth awareness and prevention.

Adolescents are more vulnerable to addiction, according to Dr. Frances Jensen, the Department of Neurology chairwoman at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

They are like “Ferraris with weak brakes,” she said.

“They can get addicted harder, longer, stronger, faster and yet they don’t have a frontal lobe to talk back to them to say ‘that’s a bad idea, don’t do that.' ”

Levine said the most effective programs to teach students about addiction are ones that integrate the course material throughout the school curriculum and “talk about how to cope with the enormous stresses that young people feel in our society, particularly with social media.”

“The ones that basically come in and give a very scary message one day about drugs or any other type of topic is not effective.”