Barletta to Co-Host Heroin & Opioid Forum with Sen. Yudichak and Rep. Toohil in Hazleton

May 5, 2017
Press Release

Hazleton – Congressman Lou Barletta (PA-11) today announced that he will be co-hosting a forum with state Senator John Yudichak (Carbon/Luzerne) and state Representative Tarah Toohil (116th District) to discuss the growing opioid epidemic facing Pennsylvania communities and efforts underway to combat the problem.  Barletta, Yudichak, and Toohil welcome members of the public to join them for the forum at Hazleton Area High School, 1601 W. 23rd St., Hazle Township, from 5-7 p.m., on Thursday, May 11, 2017.  This is the third such forum Barletta has hosted – the first was held last August in Harrisburg and the second was held this past February in Shippensburg. Barletta intends to continue holding these forums across the district this year.

The forum, moderated by Eyewitness News Reporter Andy Mehalschick, will feature representatives from government agencies, health professionals, and treatment advocacy programs.  Barletta has previously hosted forums in Harrisburg and Shippensburg.

“The opioid epidemic is one of the most tragic problems we face as a community, as substance abuse is an affliction that affects millions of Americans,” Barletta said.  “I consistently hear about opioid and heroin abuse when I am home in my district.  I look forward to this third public forum in our ongoing discussion, and I thank Senator Yudichak, Representative Toohil, Andy Mehalschick, and the Hazleton Area School District for making it possible.”

Expected panelists at the forum include:

  •          John Knowles, MA, CADC, Clearbrook Treatment Centers Senior Marketing Representative
  •          Mary Pascucci, DO, FCAP, Performant Financial Corporation Medical Director
  •          Stefanie Salavantis, Luzerne County District Attorney
  •          Jerry Speziale, Hazleton Chief of Police

Barletta was a member of the conference committee that worked out the differences between House and Senate versions of a new, sweeping approach to combating the opioid epidemic – a package which contains his own bill that specifically protects addicted newborns and their caregivers.  The legislation combines educational and prevention programs, enhanced treatment, and increased law enforcement efforts to provide a comprehensive approach to the expanding problem of opioid abuse.  The House and Senate approved the legislation and President Obama signed it into law.

As a conferee on the legislation, Barletta was able to secure the inclusion of provisions his own Infant Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act (H.R. 4843), which had already passed the House on its own by a unanimous vote of 421-to-0.  Specifically, based on Barletta’s legislation, the bill:

  •          Requires the department of Health and Human Services to review and confirm states have put in place policies required under the 1974 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA).
  •          Strengthens protections for infants born with addiction by clarifying the intent of safe care plans. 
  •          Improves accountability related to the care of infants and their families by requiring additional information on the incidents of infants born with substance exposure and their care. 
  •          Provides states with best practices for developing plans to keep infants and their caregivers healthy and safe.
  •          Encourages the use of information made available through other child welfare laws in verifying CAPTA compliance.

CAPTA was enacted in 1974 to coordinate federal efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect.  The law provides states with resources to improve their child protective services systems.  In order to receive funds under CAPTA, states are required to assure the Department of Health and Human Services that they have implemented certain child welfare policies.  Such policies include requiring health care providers to notify state child protective services agencies when a child is born with prenatal illegal substance exposure, as well as requiring the development of a “safe care plan” to protect these newborns and keep them and their caregivers healthy.  A recent Reuters investigation revealed some states are receiving federal funds without having the necessary policies in place, resulting in shocking and deadly consequences.

“Every 25 minutes in this country, a baby is born having already been exposed to drugs and suffering from opioid withdrawal,” Barletta said.  “Children who are exposed to illegal substances before they’re born are helpless in avoiding the pain and suffering caused by addiction, and so many infants enter this world without having a fighting chance.  These children will pay the price for something they had absolutely no control over – something they were defenseless against.”

The overall legislation, the Conference Report to Accompany S. 524, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, authorizes the attorney general and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to award grants to address the national epidemics of addiction to heroin and prescription opioids, and make various other changes to federal law to combat opioid addiction and abuse.

“It was a great honor to be named a conferee as the House and Senate worked together to craft this bipartisan legislation to address our nation’s growing opioid epidemic and prevent the heartbreaking instances of addiction and loss that have touched every American community,” Barletta said.  “No American demographic is safe from the scourge of opioid addiction.  It crosses party lines and it transcends Congressional district boundaries.”