A Pennsylvania Senate panel this week passed a measure sponsored by State Senator Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) to strengthen the commonwealth’s tracking of overdoses.
All Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee supported the bill. It awaits consideration of the state House of Representatives.
The legislation calls for police and other first-responder offices to report any deaths suspected to have resulted from drug usage within three days to the state’s Overdose Information Network (ODIN) or any other Pennsylvania State Police-approved platform. The commonwealth would track patterns in these statistics and issue annual reports on them for the benefit of policymakers and enforcement agencies.
“While real-time tracking of overdose data has improved over the years, there is still a significant gap between what is reported into ODIN and the actual statewide total incidents of overdoses in our state – and we are lagging behind neighboring states,” Mastriano told committee members in testimony before the vote. “From a law-enforcement perspective, a more complete picture of real-time overdose data provides real-time information and intelligence analysis on drug marketing and those who traffic in narcotics in specific regions and neighborhoods and communities. Additionally, improved overdose mapping will allow Pennsylvania to contribute to this nationwide data effort to see wider trends. Finally, real-time data sharing will help county and local officials develop response plans where there is a documented spike of overdoses in a certain area.”
Of particular concern to Mastriano and other lawmakers are deaths resulting from opioid abuse, 100,000 of which occurred across America last year. That’s 15 percent more than in 2020.
Pennsylvania is now third among all states in terms of opioid fatalities, with fentanyl deaths emerging as an especially serious scourge, insofar as the synthetic opioid is easier to produce and distribute than heroin. Fentanyl can possess 100 times the potency of morphine and a mere two-milligram dosage of it can be lethal.
According to a recent report of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, the Keystone State’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation seized more fentanyl last year than it had in the four prior years altogether. The commonwealth has observed overdose deaths rising rapidly, by 16.4 percent in 2020 and by another 6 percent last year, leading to a statewide yearly total of 5,438.
Mastriano has also authored legislation to toughen penalties on fentanyl dealers who make sales resulting in fatal overdoses. He named that proposal “Tyler’s Law” after Tyler Shanafelter, an 18-year-old constituent who fatally overdosed after acquiring something that he thought was Percocet but that turned out to be a fentanyl-laced substance.
Tyler’s Law would enjoin a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years for pushers convicted of purveying or facilitating distribution of fentanyl that resulted in a death. That legislation has yet to receive a vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
– – –