Gov. Tom Wolf highlights state's progress on opioid epidemic

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Gov. Tom Wolf highlights state's progress on opioid epidemic - Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5pm on November 28, 2017. (WPVI)

Experts say opioid abuse has become the worst drug crisis in American history. Governor Tom Wolf was in Philadelphia on Tuesday to talk about what's being done to combat the problem.

The numbers are scary. Just in Pennsylvania last year, more than 4,600 people died due to a drug overdose.

In Philadelphia, this year we are on track to hit 1,200 overdose deaths.

A news conference was held Tuesday to discuss what's being done to turn these numbers around.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf calls the opioid crisis crippling.

"This is a tragic thing. People are losing their lives, parents are losing their children," he said.

At an event hosted by Independence Blue Cross, the governor lists steps the state has taken to combat the epidemic, including increasing access to Naloxone, an emergency treatment to reverse drug overdoses, limiting the number of opioids that can be prescribed for patients and re-designing the state's drug monitoring system.

"This is important because it helps doctors know if they are being shopped and helps pharmacists spot a problem and can direct to someone who can help them," said Governor Wolf.

Dan Hilferty, CEO of Independence Blue Cross, says plans there now offer members unlimited visits to detox centers and expanded access to longer term care.

But right now, there's not always enough beds at qualified treatment centers and the stigma of addiction is also a major obstacle.

Still, when recognizing there's a problem and seeking the right care, the chances for recovery can be very good.

"The University of Pennsylvania did a study and showed of all the chronic illnesses, diabetes, substance abuse is the most successfully treated is substance abuse disorder when you get good treatment," said Doug Tieman, President and CEO of Caron Treatment Centers.

Independence Blue Cross Foundation is also working with Penn State researchers. They're launching a campaign to share real stories about people struggling with addiction.

The goal is to help further reduce the stigma. Governor Wolf says we're on the right path, but haven't turned the corner yet on this epidemic.

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