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Health--it's what we all have in common: whether we're trying to maintain our health through good habits or improve our failing health. "Bridges to Health" is 90.5 WESA's health care reporting initiative examining everything from unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act to transparency in health care costs; from a lack of access to quality care for minority members of our society to confronting the opioid crisis in our region. It's about our individual health and the well-being of our community.Health care coverage on 90.5 WESA is made possible in part by a grant from the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

Senators Hold Opiate Abuse Hearing In Pittsburgh

Two Pennsylvania senators convened a field hearing on opiate abuse Thursday at Allegheny General Hospital in an effort to jumpstart support for a bill filed in July.

Republican Pat Toomey, head of the Senate finance subcommittee on health care, and Democrat Bob Casey Jr. fielded questions from an audience of more than 100 people.

Pennsylvania has one of the country’s highest rates of prescription drug overdose. Last year, more people in the commonwealth died from overdose than they did from car accidents, according to testimony presented Thursday.

“This is a problem and a challenge for our country that knows no geographic or political boundaries. This affects all of us, all of our communities in one way or the other,” Casey said.

Patients should be made aware of the dangers of prescription medications like oxycodone, Toomey said.

“To help providers know the panoply of medications a patient is taking, I think there needs to be broader usage of robust prescription drug monitoring programs," he said. "Making them inter-operable across state lines is particularly important for people who live near state lines. And it will help physicians as well as law enforcement to spot diversion and abuse.”

Toomey introduced Senate Bill 1913, the Stopping Medication Abuse and Protecting Seniors Act, in July. Ideally, it would potentially curb some of the rampant abuse of prescription medication, he said. No summary is available online, and the bill has been stalled in the finance committee since its introduction.