HARRISBURG – A suggestion by Wyoming County Coroner Tom Kukuchka is about to become the latest state law aimed at counteracting the severe opioid crisis afflicting Pennsylvania communities.
Senate Bill 978, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20th, allows hospice workers to dispose of medications left behind when a home hospice patient passes, relieving the burden of grieving families, and helping to keep the drugs out of the wrong hands. The modification was necessary due to a change to federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) rules that prohibited disposal by homecare providers, unless specifically authorized by the state. The legislation received final approval today in a 49-0 vote and was sent to the governor for his signature.
“A family losing a loved one has emotions to cope with and difficult decisions to make. They should not have to worry about how to properly dispose of unused medications,” Baker said. “That task can be safely and efficiently handled by the trained medical personnel from the hospice or homecare facility.”
“Overdose fatalities are at record highs,” Kukuchka commented. “One of the ways we can help counteract this epidemic is to prevent properly prescribed drugs from falling into the wrong hands.”
The measure was enthusiastically supported by the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, Bayada Home Health Care, the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association and others.
“The opioid crisis has been declared an emergency because of the heavy toll in lives lost or seriously disrupted. We need to continue to overhaul laws, regulations, and rules that contribute to the problem,” added Baker. “We see encouraging signs of the necessary commitment on the part of public officials, health care professionals, law enforcement, and private citizens to finding additional ways to make a constructive difference.”
Andrew M. Seder