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GOP-Led General Assembly Doesn’t Plan To Extend Governor Tom Wolf’s Opioid Crisis Emergency Declaration

On today’s program: The 15th extension of Gov. Tom Wolf’s opioid disaster declaration may be its last since a measure passed by voters in May limited the governor’s ability to extend emergency declarations independently; and state Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Cindy Adams Dunn explains how the state’s recreation spending has risen in the pandemic, supporting both private and public entities.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s opioid crisis disaster declaration may be at an end
(0:00 - 11:07)

On Aug. 4, Gov. Wolf signed the 15th renewal of his January 2018 opioid disaster declaration to help the state fight the opioid and heroin epidemic. The declaration will last until Aug. 26 unless the legislature takes action to extend it. It only took a day for Republican legislative leaders to say they will not do so.

Wolf cannot renew the declaration beyond 21 days because of a constitutional amendment approved by voters.

“Before that change, a governor’s emergency declarations could last 90 days, and they could be extended unilaterally by the governor,”says xplains Marley Parish, a reporter with the Pennsylvania Capital Star.

Wolf’s original emergency disaster declaration created new avenues for people to seek treatment for opioid and heroin substance use disorders.

“It expanded access to treatment facilities that would otherwise be hard for people to get in their communities, … it expanded treatment and access to drugs that can treat overdose, especially in emergency situations, and it also established things like the statewide prescription monitoring program,” says Parish.

Parish says lawmakers, including Wolf and leaders in the general assembly, have acknowledged most of the provisions in the declaration have been made permanent. Wolf wanted the general assembly to approve another extension specifically to support the prescription drug monitoring program, but Parish says some lawmakers have said they will not return to Harrisburg in the middle of their summer break to do so.

Pennsylvania saw rise in recreation spending amid pandemic
(11:09 - 22:30) 

Many Pennsylvanians turned to the outdoors during the pandemic, but according to most recent data from 2019, outdoor recreation made up much less of the state’s gross domestic product compared to other states. Outdoor recreation made up 1.2% of the state’s gross domestic product that year, compared to an average 2.1% generated nationwide.

“Pennsylvania is a very old state, has a diverse economy, so as a percentage of our gross domestic product right now, that number is not big,” says the state’s Department of Recreation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “But keep in mind, when you look at … the portion in the outdoor recreation economy in Pennsylvania, it’s actually really big, we’re fifth in the nation.”

Dunn says the state generates $29.1 billion in consumer spending, $8.6 billion in wages and salaries, and supports 250,000 direct jobs, citing a 2017 report from the Outdoor Industry Association.

“We commissioned Penn State to do a study on just the economic impact of the state park system, and for every dollar spent on state parks it returns $13 to the local economy and it generates over a billion dollars for the economy” says Dunn.

She says the state park system is also turning its attention to accessibility, referencing the launch of the “Penn’s Parks for All” program, which draws recommendations from surveys completed in 2017 and 2018 by Penn State.

Dunn expects those who enjoyed the outdoors during the pandemic will continue to do so, which she says highlights the need for improving infrastructure like connecting trails and updating campgrounds to accommodate everyone from small groups to big families.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
Eoin is a production assistant for The Confluence and a senior at NC State University studying political science. He got his start in broadcasting at WKNC, NC State's college radio station. When he's not working, he enjoys hiking, surfing, and listening to music.
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