New Pennsylvania Laws Target Overdose Epidemic

Pennsylvania state data shows that drug overdoses claimed at least 3,700 lives in Pennsylvania last year. Two of the 33 bills signed into law by Gov. Josh Shapiro in December deal directly with trying to help combat this ongoing drug overdose crisis. Act 66 aims to help address workforce shortages by offering regulatory flexibilities for treatment providers and in turn improve access to those who need their services. The bill allows certified registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants to fulfill the on-call physician requirements of a treatment program. The change would address massive physician shortages particularly seen in rural parts of the commonwealth. In addition, the law also increases counselor, counselor supervisor and counselor assistant caseloads in inpatient residential treatment settings to give providers more flexibility in how they can use their employees and expertise. It also waives clinical experience requirements so individuals with related advanced degrees can get to work immediately and help meet staffing needs. Act 43 expands fentanyl and xylazine drug testing in hospital emergency departments. Last April, the Shapiro administration moved to reschedule xylazine as a Schedule III drug, meaning it can’t be obtained over the counter. Xylazine had most commonly been used as an animal sedative, but its illicit use has grown in popularity among drug abusers.

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