Senator White Calls for Law to Fix “Toothless” Opioid Executive Order

Following the Administration’s recent admission that the Governor’s Executive Order on opioid prescription guidelines for the Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Program is unenforceable, Senator Don White is calling on Governor Wolf to support legislation that will limit the over-prescription of pain medications under the system.

In April, the Governor vetoed Senate Bill 936 – legislation drafted by Senator White that addressed several existing problems with the Workers’ Compensation Program, including the over-prescribing of opioids – and instead issued an Executive Order, which he said would handle the problem.

However, a June letter from Health Secretary Rachel Levine said the guidelines set by the Executive Order were unenforceable. “Unfortunately, in the absence of legislation, we are unable to mandate use,” the Secretary wrote.

“This response clearly shows this Executive Order is basically toothless,” said Senator White. “Instead of having limits set by statute, the Administration is hoping to address the problem of excessive and unnecessary opioid prescriptions through a myriad of state boards. This patchwork approach is not the way to handle a problem that is creating an ever-increasing list of victims and devastating so many families.”

Senator White subsequently introduced Senate Bill 1187, legislation that requires the Departments of Labor & Industry, Health, and Drug & Alcohol Programs to develop evidence-based prescribing guidelines for treatment of work-related injuries under the Workers’ Compensation Program.

In an August 7 letter, Senator White urged the Governor to help push the measure through the legislative process. “The Secretary’s (Levine) admission that the guidelines are voluntary, and are nothing more than recommendations that carry no legal authority, can only be corrected through a change in law,” he wrote.

The Administration has yet to respond to Senator White’s letter.

“The Governor has issued two emergency declarations regarding the opioid crisis and has traveled around the state to meet with people and hear the tragic stories of victims and the loved ones they have left behind,” Senator White said. “Here is a chance for him to take a leading role in the fight in the trenches against opioid abuse. I hope that he would lend his full support to get this bill across the finish line in an expeditious manner and certainly before the current voting session of the legislature ends this fall.”

 

Contact:           Joe Pittman      jpittman@pasen.gov    (724) 357-0151