(HARRISBURG) – Legislation to further address substance abuse problems in Pennsylvania was unanimously passed by the State Senate, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25).

Scarnati explained that Senate Bill 524 establishes the Non-narcotic Medication Assisted Substance Abuse Treatment Grant Pilot Program within the Department of Corrections (DOC). The DOC will be charged with administering the program and is also required to issue a report evaluating the pilot program’s effectiveness to the House and Senate Judiciary and Appropriations Committees within 18 months after the bill becomes effective.

“Pennsylvania state prisons and county jails are filled with people that suffer from a substance use disorder,” Scarnati said. “In the rural district that I represent and across our Commonwealth, we specifically see heroin use has become a widespread epidemic. This pilot program will explore how medicated assisted treatment, with regard to non-narcotic, non-addictive medications, can be of help in combating this problem.”

Currently, Pennsylvania ranks third in the nation behind California and Illinois for heroin use, the most commonly cited drug among drug treatment admissions in Pennsylvania.  In 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1,812 persons died in Pennsylvania as a direct consequence of drug use with an estimated mortality rate of 5 people per day.

According to Scarnati, counties will be eligible to participate in the program provided that they meet certain requirements. These include having a county correctional institution with an institutional substance abuse treatment program that supports offenders transitioning from a county correctional institution to the community or offenders who are sentenced to serve intermediate punishment. Grant awards will be at the discretion of the DOC.

Senate Bill 524 has been sent to the Governor for his signature. Once signed, the program will take effect in 60 days.

“This pilot program is clearly a positive step forward towards addressing the serious drug epidemic affecting our communities,” Scarnati stated. “I thank my colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives for working with me to advance this important initiative.”

CONTACT: Casey Long clong@pasen.gov (717) 787-7084