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State to Review Methadone Deaths, DiGirolamo Says
12/5/2012
HARRISBURG – Whenever someone in Pennsylvania is taking methadone and passes away, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will be able to review the circumstances surrounding that death under a new law authored by state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) and signed earlier this month by Gov. Tom Corbett.

DiGirolamo helped announce the new law during a press conference today at Soar Inc., a methadone clinic in Philadelphia with Sen. Michael Stack (D-Philadelphia), who authored similar legislation in the state Senate.

Act 148 of 2012 calls for methadone death and incident review teams in cases where methadone was either a primary or secondary cause of death. The review team will be a part of the new Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

“Until now, Pennsylvania was not authorized to review the circumstances in which someone taking methadone has died,” said DiGirolamo, who has been fighting for this legislation for several years. “When someone on a methadone-related treatment plan passes away, there can be so many unanswered questions. We are seeing a national trend in which the incidents of methadone-related deaths are climbing, and Pennsylvania needs to be on the forefront of why it is happening in our state. This new law gives us more tools in helping to solve these mysteries.”

Under the new law, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs can now thoroughly review cases and find out if weaknesses occur in state laws with respect to methadone use or clinics with authority to dispense the substance.

The review team must adhere to strict confidentiality laws to protect the privacy of the patient. In addition, a report from the review team will be submitted back to the House Human Services Committee, the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee and the Judiciary Committees of both chambers. The new law is expected to have no financial impact on the Commonwealth.

Methadone is used to treat addiction to opiates and is being prescribed in growing numbers by doctors to treat pain.

DiGirolamo thanked Bucks County resident Marti Hottenstein, who works at Soar Inc. and who has been a champion of this issue for many years in honor of her son, Karl, who passed away six years ago from a drug overdose where methadone was involved. The circumstances surrounding his death led her to advocate for incident review teams. DiGirolamo has asked that the new law be designated Karl’s Law in his memory.

“Marti’s strong advocacy of this issue is one of the main reasons why this became law,” DiGirolamo said. “Her son would have been very proud of her taking up this cause, in an effort to make sure that we can look into a full understanding of methadone, and I am pleased that this new law will be named in his memory.”

Representative Gene DiGirolamo
18th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton
717.705.2094
jkeaton@pahousegop.com
www.GeneDiGirolamo.com / www.Facebook.com/GeneDiGirolamo
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