The opioid crisis has reached epidemic proportions, with more than 5,000 people dying in Pennsylvania of overdoses in 2016 alone. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf made an effort to address this problem by declaring the heroin and opioid epidemic a statewide disaster emergency. It’s the first time in Pennsylvania’s history that such a declaration has been made for a public health emergency.
The effort consists of a 13-point plan with practical applications like establishing a Opioid Command Center, expanding the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), and increasing access to the anti-overdose drug Naloxone for both EMS providers and pharmacists. The order also increases access to treatment.
“I routinely challenge all commonwealth agencies to think innovatively about how they continue to address the opioid epidemic and seek solutions that last long beyond our tenure in this building,” the governor said in a statement. “One such solution is to use the executive authority granted to me as the governor of this commonwealth to waive statutory regulations that create barriers to treatment and prevention, prevent first responders and others from saving lives, and reduce efficiency of our response.”
Six states — Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Virginia — have previously taken the step of declaring the opioid crisis a statewide emergency. President Trump declared the crisis a “national emergency” last August, but he has been criticized for not doing much to follow up on that declaration.
The opioid crisis is clearly a very challenging problem, and Gov. Wolf deserves credit for taking such steps. Ironically, however, many people in Pennsylvania might associate the opioid crisis with a different governor: Chris Christie of New Jersey.
In the waning days of his time in office, Christie has sought to reinvent himself around the opioid issue. The governor was placed in charge of President Trump’s opioid commission — after having been snubbed for roles as vice president, attorney general, White House chief of staff, and transition chairman — and has drawn criticism for using that position to boost New Jersey-based pharmaceutical companies.
Other than that, Christie’s efforts have mostly included a series of television commercials that have run in heavy rotation in New Jersey in recent months — plus in the neighboring New York and Philadelphia markets, two of the more expensive places in the country in which to advertise.
Christie has played many starring roles in commercials for tourism and other state matters throughout his eight-year governorship; the “Stronger than the Storm” campaign of the post-Sandy period, and its terrible accompanying song, likely hasn’t left the heads of most people who ever heard it.
The opioid ads, which reportedly cost $42 million, feature Christie himself front and center in nearly every commercial — including one spot which consists entirely of the governor addressing a candlelight vigil.
It’s certainly possible that Christie’s commitment to the opioid issue is completely sincere, and in no way a last-ditch attempt to salvage the governor’s reputation after his failed presidential candidacy, Bridgegate, Beachgate, and his series of embarrassing subjugations by the president of the United States.
Thankfully, not one of the 13 points in Gov. Wolf’s opioid crisis plan involves purchasing an expensive, publicly-financed series of TV ads, airing around the clock and starring the governor.