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Audit launched of state efforts to treat opioid addiction

In hopes of finding out what works and what doesn’t, Pennsylvania’s top auditor plans to review the effectiveness of state programs that treat people who are addicted to heroin and opioid pain pills.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said today that his office will be auditing three state agencies to measure the effectiveness of current treatment options.

The audit will examine how the Pennsylvania Departments of Corrections, Human Services and Drug and Alcohol Programs are monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of opioid-related drug treatment initiatives.

DePasquale decided to undertake the audit because of skyrocketing death tolls nationally that are being attributed to opioid pain pill and heroin overdoses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the commonwealth has one of the highest opioid overdose death rates in the U.S., DePasquale said. In 2015, more than 3,500 people died of a drug overdose in Pennsylvania.

“Opioid addiction rips apart families, spurs increases in crime in our neighborhoods and is tremendously costly in the workplace,” DePasquale said. “Effective treatment is one solution to the opioid epidemic, so we must make sure that the tax dollars we spend to end this horrible scourge are directed to treatment programs with positive results.”

It will not monitor individual cases, but will be looking closely at how much money the departments being audited spend on drug treatment, and how they track the progress of that treatment, DePasquale said.

Each audit will review data from Jan. 1, 2013 through the end of audit procedures, a news release said.

“We call it like we see it, and we’ll find out, at least to the best of our ability, what works and what doesn’t,” DePasquale said.

At the same time, Gov. Tom Wolf requested today that the state House of Representatives and Senate meet for a joint session to discuss how the General Assembly can unify their efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

Gov. Wolf’s request for a joint session comes after he confirmed that a special session, which he had requested this summer, won’t be happening.

He switched to calling for a joint session because it could move more swiftly to tackle the opioid epidemic, Wolf said.

In a joint session, legislators will consider bills that already have been introduced. In a special session the General Assembly would have to introduce new bills, and each new bill would take at least six legislative days to reach the governor’s desk.

Lenay Ruhl

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