Dinniman: Real Leadership in the Battle Against Heroin & Drug Addiction
WEST CHESTER (August 30, 2016) – When Chester County emergency first responders asked Senator Dinniman for help in obtaining Naloxone (Narcan), he listened and he acted. As a result, dozens of lives have been saved by Project Naloxone and more recovery services for those suffering from addiction are on the way.
The epidemic of heroin, opioid and prescription pill addiction knows no borders. It impacts the old and young, the rich and the poor. Frequently the consequences are devastating. All too often, they’re fatal.
Dinniman has been in the trenches, working with our police and emergency first responders to give them the tools they need to save lives and give those suffering from addiction a second chance at life and recovery.
“Heroin, drugs, and prescription medication addiction are robbing Pennsylvania communities and families of our greatest resource – our young people,” Dinniman said.
It started with a phone call. In early 2014, Dinniman was contacted by officials at Good Fellowship Ambulance and EMS Training Institute in West Chester. The organization had been supplying its first responders with Naloxone (Narcan) under a prescription from its own medical director. The drug had shown miraculous results in reversing the effects of opioid overdose and saving lives. News of its potential was just beginning to spread across the country and gain national attention.
But there was a problem. In Pennsylvania, police officers, firefighters, and EMT’s were not yet permitted to carry the drug. Good Fellowship had taken the initiative on its own to fund and train its first responders. Now they needed Dinniman’s help to get Naloxone in the hands of those who needed it most.
Dinniman partnered with state Senator John Rafferty to introduce bipartisan legislation that would do just that. As a result of their leadership, Act 139 of 2014 was passed and signed into law. The law allows police officers, emergency medical responders, firefighters, and others to carry Naloxone. In addition, it protects from criminal or civil liability those who summon medical assistance for or administer Naloxone to someone suffering an opioid overdose. It also allows parents and family members of those suffering from addiction to access Naloxone.
But Dinniman’s involvement didn’t stop there. When he learned that updates to Department of Health Regulations threatened to delay getting Naloxone to emergency first responders for months, he went to Harrisburg and cut through bureaucratic red tape. As a direct result of Dinniman’s meeting with Secretary of Health Karen Murphy and Acting Physician General Rachel Levine, Dr. Levine issued written approval for emergency medical responders and EMTs to proceed with carrying and administering Naloxone months before the effective date of the new protocols.
“Simply put, it was a matter of saving lives and giving our emergency first responders the tools they needed to save lives. There was no reason to wait. We weren’t going to wait. It was something we had to see through,” Dinniman said.
Last October, Dr. Levine signed a “standing order” for Naloxone, which acts as a prescription for any Pennsylvanian to get the life-saving drug at pharmacies across the Commonwealth.
Today, Project Naloxone, led by Good Fellowship Ambulance and EMS Training Institute, has saved dozens of lives and been implemented in all of Chester County’s police departments.
For his work, Dinniman was honored by Good Fellowship Ambulance and EMS Training Institute and the Chester County EMS Council with the 2016 Robert Thompson Memorial Award.
“This is another instance of Chester County leading the way. We have some of the best and most well-trained fire, police and emergency first responders in the nation. And they’re the real heroes here,” Dinniman said. “They always answer the call when we need them, and they know that I’ll always be here when they need me.”
“Parents and family members who lost loved ones to addiction have also been the driving force behind this initiative. Their strength and resolve in working to prevent others from experiencing such loss is a true source of inspiration,” he added.
Dinniman continues to work to ensure that those who get a second shot at life from Naloxone have access to necessary support and recovery services. He supported and voted for investments in the 2016-17 state budget that are funding 20 Opioid Use Disorder Centers of Excellence to treat approximately 4,500 people who previously lacked access to treatment.
Other new initiatives call for better monitoring of drug prescriptions and programs to ensure that patients who seek emergency care for drug-related health issues are automatically connected with a drug-treatment provider upon release.
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Dinniman for Senate
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Exton, PA 19341