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Director appointed to oversee Pa. drug monitoring initiative

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State officials today announced they have picked a director to lead the state's prescription-drug-monitoring program, which is designed to head off substance-abuse problems before they start.

Meghna Patel, who has an extensive health care background, will start today as director.

Patel previously worked in various roles at Geisinger Health System.

Aside from health care, she has served as an interpreter for the U.S. District Court and was an education consultant in India.

Her new role will include developing and launching the drug-monitoring program, as well as training dispensers and physicians on how to use the database.

Pennsylvania’s prescription drug monitoring program is not yet live, but it has been in the works since 2014 when state law began to require monitoring of substances deemed likely to be abused or to make users dependent on them.

The federal government groups substances in categories, known as schedules. The drugs being monitored are in Schedule II through Schedule V, and they include pain medications such as oxycodone and codeine, anxiety medications such as diazepam and certain cold medicines like Robitussin AC.

The monitoring represents an effort to prevent drug abuse before it starts, as the state confronts a serious opioid and heroin epidemic.

"The Wolf administration is committed to fighting the opioid and heroin overdose crisis in Pennsylvania, and the Department of Health is excited to have Ms. Patel lead this important office," said Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy. "She will ensure the PDMP meets its goal of assisting health care professionals in identifying patients that would benefit from treatment."

In February, officials announced that they selected a vendor, Kentucky-based Appriss, to host the database.

With both a director and a vendor selected, Pennsylvania is one step closer to implementing this program.

It is expected to go live in August, according to spokeswoman Amy Worden.

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