Agency Battling Drug Crisis Has a Big Job, But Little State Money
If officials are tuned in to the statewide heroin crisis that has killed thousands of Pennsylvanians, they apparently think it’s a cheap fix.
After six years of inaction, in 2010 the Pennsylvania General Assembly created the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, formerly a modest bureau tucked into the Department of Health.
Then they piled on a huge workload and gave it little money.
Overdoses have spiked in Pennsylvania, with heroin and other opiates killing more than 3,000 people since 2009, not counting deaths attributed to accidents, disease and suicide. Thousands more have had their lives torn apart, like Holly Wright, a mother of two from Kittanning, Pa., who went to treatment after losing her job, money and nearly her children.
Pennsylvania ranks third nationally in heroin addiction, with an estimated 40,000 users, according to the state attorney general’s office.
Meanwhile, treatment facilities run out of money, addicts are turned away from long-term care and billions of dollars are spent in the state to deal with the collateral costs of addiction, but not to treat it.