McKeesport – Jan. 11, 2018 – On the heels of Gov. Tom Wolf announcing a disaster declaration for the heroin and opioid epidemic, Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland) today called on the governor to go even further and endorse mandatory treatment for any person charged with a non-violent crime who is treated by first responders for an overdose or addiction.

“The governor has been very aggressive in taking executive action to battle heroin and opioid abuse,” Brewster said.  “We need the governor to recognize that mandatory treatment is the most significant and effective step that can be taken to resolve the problem once and for all.”

Brewster has put his ideas concerning mandatory treatment into bill form.  He introduced a package of legislation (Senate Bills 710-712) called “Prevention, Recovery and Enforcement Act” that is designed to address each component of the crisis.  His legislation includes measures that would limit opioid prescriptions, impose mandatory treatment, and add stiff penalties for drug pushers who possess illegal guns.

“The governor’s disaster declaration will open up resources that can be used in the fight to stop opioid and heroin abuse and I am very pleased that he took this step,” Brewster said.  “It focuses energy and attention on the problem. The next phase in dealing with the crisis is getting at the root cause and addressing it through mandatory treatment of those who are treated by first responders or face criminal charges.”

Brewster said there should be both civil and criminal referrals for mandatory treatment.  He also supports Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa’s (D-Allegheny) legislation that would enable family members to seek mandatory treatment for loved ones.   

The McKeesport lawmaker said that it was clear to him that long-term mandatory treatment is necessary given the recidivism of those who complete short-term treatment regimens.  He said that testimony of experts from the medical community at Senate hearings indicates that at least nine months of treatment for those addicted is necessary. 

“Whether long-term treatment is offered at a residential treatment facility or through an intensive outpatient process that is heavily monitored, it’s clear that what is being done now is not sufficient and too many loved ones are being lost to the drug abuse,” Brewster said. 

Brewster said he realizes that there are costs involved in mandatory treatment, but noted that many patients could be covered through Medicaid and that other funds could be released through a redirection of drug forfeiture funds and savings from reduced corrections costs. 

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