ASHLEY, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A local addiction treatment center is sending out a lifeline to Harrisburg. It’s looking for legislative help to combat the growing opioid problem in the community.
The Wilkes-Barre area facility called Miners Medical has been in existance for seven years. On Thursday, it invited a state lawmaker to tour the center and spur change in existing laws governing addiction treatment.
A methadone dosing station was the first stop on State Representative Aaron Kaufer’s tour of Miners Medical. The facility which offers an assortment of treatment options dispenses methadone to nearly 400 patients per day who are addicted to opioids.
“Every indication seems to be that things are getting worse,” said Rep. Kaufer (R-Luzerne County). Statistics show 13 Pennsylvanians die from drug overdoses each day — up 37 percent from last year. Rep. Kaufer co-chairs a bi-partisan caucus called “PA HOPE”, which stands for Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education. But so far, Governor Tom Wolf hasn’t called for a special session of lawmakers to discuss ways to streamline opiate addiction treatment. Rep. Kaufer responded by saying, “We’re not laser focused on doing a special session addressing it. What more is important in government if not to save people’s lives.”
Joseph Montanez is the Executive Director of Miners Medical in Ashley. “A lot of people need the assistance and they’re just… they just can’t get it. You know, especially when you have lawmakers and a lot of barriers in their way,” he said.
Case in point is recovering addicts who relapse while waiting to enter a detox facility. “It’s hard for our patients to get into detoxes because there’s just so much limited spacing,” said Mr. Montanez.
Rep. Kaufer has introduced several bills in Pennsylvania aimed at breaking the addiction cycle. Among them, House Bill 118. It would create emergency detox units at hospitals to provide ongoing treatment of overdose patients until they can be admitted to an addiction treatment facility. While measures like this may not be the ultimate answer, Rep. Kaufer considers them an important part of the solution. “This issue didn’t happen overnight and it’s not going to be solved overnight.”
Rep. Kaufer says he expects Governor Wolf to sign House Bill 118 in the next couple of weeks. Rep. Kaufer also hopes the governor will call for that special session and get the “PA HOPE” caucus to discuss the Luzerne County lawmaker’s nine other bills addressing the state’s opioid problem.