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Senate Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: June 16, 2017 02:36 PM
From: Senator Gene Yaw
To: All Senate members
Subject: Department Consolidation Proposal
Recently, Governor Tom Wolf outlined a proposal to consolidate the Department of Aging, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), Department of Health and Department of Human Services (DHS) into a new, single Department of Health and Human Services.

As our state continues to face one of the worst epidemics of our generation, I believe that now is not the time to bury DDAP on the third level of an administrative behemoth. This Department must maintain its autonomy.

In the near future, I will introduce a measure consolidating only the Department of Aging, Department of Health and Department of Human Services.

DDAP came into existence in July 2012 as the result of legislation enacted in 2010. This department was previously under the Department of Health but changed to a separate operation for one single purpose---to focus on drug and alcohol issues.

Whether by luck or tremendous insight, the legislature created the Department at precisely the right time in the history of the heroin epidemic. The agency was put in place at a time when Pennsylvania was moving to the top of the list of states experiencing this growing epidemic.

Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s Physician General, has stated that the heroin issue in Pennsylvania is a health epidemic. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death surpassing deaths from traffic accidents and guns. Heroin deaths increased 439% from 1999 to 2014. As of 2014, heroin-related deaths had more than tripled in five years and quintupled in 10 years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pennsylvania had the fourth highest drug overdose death rate in the U.S. per 100,000 in 2015 and that was a 28% increase over 2014.

Since its inception, DDAP, through its Secretary, has been instrumental in promoting and equipping municipal police officers with naloxone; assisting with drug takeback boxes; establishing an Overdose Task Force; developing a warm handoff policy to help overdose survivors; and reviewing treatment bed availability across the state, just to name a few undertakings.

I am aware there has been an effort to minimize the role of DDAP in many of the above accomplishments. The reality is that someone in the chain of command had, as a sole purpose, the mission of dealing with drug and alcohol problems from every facet of life in the Commonwealth. And, that person made a difference.

The moving force was one Department and one Secretary who had a laser focus on the drug epidemic. One Secretary promoted the Administration’s efforts in dealing with the heroin epidemic. Clearly, there was one voice for the Administration.

I believe that DDAP must remain a single and separate Department during this trying time as we address the growing heroin and opioid crisis in the state.

I urge you to join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation that would consolidate only the Department of Aging, Department of Health and Department of Human Services (DHS) into a new Department of Health and Human Services.

Introduced as SB828