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International Overdose Awareness Day: August 31

August 28, 2020

Monday, August 31, is International Overdose Awareness Day, a time to remember colleagues, friends, and family members who have lost their lives in the deadly battle with substance use disorder. It also is an opportunity to learn more about preventing overdose deaths in your community:

  • Never take a higher dose of your prescription medication than prescribed
  • Never share your prescription medications with anyone
  • Store opioid prescriptions in a secure location and away from children or visitors
  • Property dispose of unused medications. Many hospitals also have drop boxes available 24/7 to allow residents to dispose of unwanted medications

The term “opioids” refers to a class of medications available by prescription for pain relief, and includes oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and others, and illegal synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl. Due to their addictive nature, opioids have a high rate of misuse and abuse.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has monopolized news headlines during the past months, the country’s opioid crisis continues to rage in the background. Stay-at-home orders in many states have made it more difficult—if not impossible—for many patients to receive the treatment they need to support their continuing efforts to recover. Recognizing a serious problem, the American Medical Association on August 14 released a brief urging state officials to take immediate action to address the new increase of opioid-related mortality in more than 40 states.

In Pennsylvania, state officials continue to work to support individuals with substance use disorder toward supporting recovery and decreasing opioid-related deaths. Recent efforts include:

  • Governor Wolf on August 19 signed the eleventh renewal of the state’s opioid disaster declaration. The declaration allows for additional resources to be directed towards the fight against the opioid crisis
  • On August 18, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed an updated naloxone standing order allowing community-based organizations to provide naloxone (Narcan) by mail. Naloxone is a highly effective treatment that can reverse an overdose. This important policy change will help to get treatment to individuals who have access restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • A state-based strategic plan was released during July. The plan’s goal is to remove barriers to treatment and develop new programs to address and support the ongoing need for support and resources

Hospitals across Pennsylvania continue to work with state and local governments to lead the work to help patients with substance use disorder access the treatment they need to recover from this disease. HAP's Opioid Learning Action Network (LAN) supports Pennsylvania’s hospitals in working collectively to identify, create, and disseminate promising practices to measurably increase the number of patients entering evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder and reduce overdose deaths.

For more information about efforts to address the opioid crisis, please contact Jennifer Jordan, HAP’s vice president, regulatory advocacy.