Governor Tom Wolf visits Philadelphia to address opioid crisis in Kensington

Gov. Tom Wolf visited Esperanza Health Center along Allegheny Avenue.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf was in Philadelphia's Kensington section Thursday, highlighting the need for more funding to battle the opioid crisis.

The governor visited Esperanza Health Center along Allegheny Avenue.

He's calling on state lawmakers to pass legislation that will support efforts to curb the increase in overdose deaths in recent years.

EMBED More News Videos

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf was in Philadelphia's Kensington section Thursday, highlighting the need for more funding to battle the opioid crisis.



Between 2017 and 2020, Pennsylvania made progress on reducing the number of deaths due to drug overdoses. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

"It exacerbated the problem because the problems of addiction, we took our eye off the ball," said Governor Tom Wolf (D - Pennsylvania) of the state's programs focusing on addiction.

Now, Pennsylvania has returned to having some of the highest heroin overdose rates in the nation.

"It's very sad," Wolf said.

Wolf used the moment as an opportunity to appeal to state lawmakers to create bipartisan legislation focused on reducing drug overdose deaths.

"We have got to confront the hard answers that we need to do more," added Wolf. "The opioid addiction problem is something that affects people across Pennsylvania. Here in Philadelphia but in the smallest rural communities are well."

Approving more funding would help organizations like "One Day at a Time," which has its headquarters in North Philadelphia.

The nonprofit helps people battling issues including drug addiction, homelessness, and HIV.

"We specialize in bringing families back together," said Mel Wells, president, and CEO of One Day at a Time.

Wells is candid about his past, which includes using and selling drugs. He uses that background to help people struggling with addiction now, training teams of people to be on the streets of Philadelphia 24 hours a day.

One of those teams was recently created to work at what Wolf called "ground zero" of the opioid epidemic: Kensington.

"We're getting ready to take over the main stops of Kensington and Allegheny where you see the epicenter of the Heroin addiction," Wells said.

He sees the difference it can make to offer a helping hand to people suffering from drug addiction. He also knows the benefit of being ready for any scenario.

"We also go on the streets with Narcan. We actually train the homeless community on how to use Narcan just in case one of their peers has an overdose," Wells added.

The 6abc Data Team looked at statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. They revealed that the state saw at least 2,279 fatal drug overdoses so far in 2021.

If fatal overdoses continue at this rate, Pennsylvania is on track to reach 3,288 accidental and undetermined drug overdose deaths by the end of the year.

Wells is glad that Wolf took a driving tour of Kensington on Thursday.

"I'm happy that somebody just came down and noticed what's going on," he said.

Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.