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Allegheny Co. Health Director Praises State’s Opioid Efforts, But Wants More

Matt Nemeth
90.5 WESA

This week, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a series of bills aimed at fighting the opioid epidemic in the state but the legislature let several bills expire without a vote.

Allegheny County Department of Health Director Karen Hacker said she supports the actions of the state in general, but she would like to see more done to combat the opioid epidemic.

Among the laws passed, Hacker said she is most interested in a bill calling for more education for medical professionals on safe opioid prescribing.

“Because I think this is really an area that for medical individuals they just don’t have a lot of information on this,” Hacker said. “I would really be in favor of physicians really understanding their recovery options and the treatment options.”

Wolf also said he'd like to see more Pennsylvania medical students receive training on how to deal with opioid addictions

“I think there’s more that we can do to convince deans in medical schools to make their curriculum more robust when it comes to teaching their medical students about what to look for when a patient of theirs might show signs of substance abuse disorder,” Wolf said. “I think we still have work to do to overcome the stigma (associated with substance abuse)."

Hacker is a supporter of medically-assisted treatments and said she would like doctors to have a better understanding of that option.

“The things that I think we’re really lacking in is this ability to offer treatment on demand and to make sure that people who need that can get it,” said Hacker.

It's something she'd like the legislature work on next year, she said.   

Hacker said the state also needs more preventative measures to keep people from becoming addicted in the first place.