Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Jim Carroll, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), today convened a virtual roundtable on efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.
You can watch the full roundtable here. The video is available for download and use on-air here.
While progress has been made in recent years to stem the tide of the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania and across the country, the continued fight has been stymied by the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Toomey, Director Carroll, and expert panelists discussed the status of the opioid epidemic and highlighted federal and local efforts to reduce opioid misuse, including Senator Toomey’s two bills, the Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Imports Act and the IMPROVE Addiction Care Act.
During the roundtable, Senator Toomey said:
“2020 has undoubtedly been an extraordinary year, from an impeachment to a pandemic to a lockdown, civil unrest, and a contentious election. And yet, it remains the case that the topic about which I’ve had the most meetings and discussions since I joined the Senate has been the opioid epidemic and the drug addiction that is related to it. This is a scourge that continues to impact our entire commonwealth. It does not discriminate based on age, race, social standing or geography, and it’s been devastating. I think it’s also true that there’s been some progress in recent years.”
Director Carroll:
“…your bills that would disrupt the flow of illicit fentanyl from foreign countries and improve access to treatment for those who have experienced a non-fatal opioid overdose, the Blocking Deadly Fentanyl Act and the IMPROVE Addiction Care Act, are wonderful bills. These are life-saving bills.”
David Kennedy – President of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association:
“Thus far, in 2020, there have been 4,467 overdoses, and 705 deaths, a significant increase, and there are two more months left in this calendar year. In just the third quarter of 2020, Pennsylvania State Police reported seizing nearly 20 pounds of heroin and 13 pounds of fentanyl. It’s an issue that hits close to home here at the PSTA. Just this past year, a member of our executive board suffered an exposure to fentanyl while serving a search warrant. Thankfully, he was treated without further incident. Our troopers work tirelessly to rid our commonwealth of this poison. We are proud to partner with Senator Toomey to bring this conversation to the public.”
Dr. Jeanmarie Perrone – Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and Founding Director of the Penn Medicine Center for Addiction Medicine and Policy, referring to Senator Toomey’s IMPROVE Addiction Care Act:
“I think, you know, the intention of a lot of the mental health and substance use privacy is well-intended, but it can become more of an obstruction to the continuity of care and the concept that I should have a good sense of a patient in treatment or what their mental health issues are, or what their substance use treatment has been. Methadone alone is a medication that I can’t see whether or not a patient is currently in treatment with methadone. And that’s an additional benefit and risk of being in methadone treatment – it doesn’t show up on their medication list, and I might not be aware of it. So there are challenges for the patient with that privacy and many patients want their substance use treatment to be held privately, but it becomes a limitation to the clinicians involved. I think there’s a way to improve the transparency without hurting the patient’s privacy directly.”
Dr. Julie Donohue - Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Health Policy and Management, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health:

“…what we found was that the likelihood of filling at least one opioid prescription only decreased by a little bit after the non-fatal overdose…on the treatment side the marginal improvement after this life threatening event was also small…looking at the data another way patients were about 4 times more likely after surviving an opioid overdose to fill another opioid prescription than they were to receive treatment for their addiction. In other words we found a relatively weak health system response.”