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Long-awaited substance use recovery grant program passes Pa. House

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Sarah Nicell, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
June 13, 2024

The Pennsylvania House on Wednesday passed a bill establishing a lifetime grant program for substance use recovery.

House Bill 1783 also mandates the creation and distribution of opioid awareness materials. The bill passed on a 187 to 14 vote.

“As an ER doc, I have experienced the opioid epidemic in a very particular way,” Rep. Arvind Venkat (D-Allegheny) said on the House floor before the vote. “But it pales in comparison to that of families who have lost loved ones to the opioid crisis.”

Venkat was the prime sponsor of the opioid awareness legislation. The original bill did not include the substance use recovery grant program, but an amendment approved Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee added the treatment and recovery grant program to its priorities.

The amendment’s language was largely taken from a previously stalled bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Hohenstein (D-Philadelphia) and Rep. Jim Gregory (R-Blair/Huntingdon). House Bill 1650 was laid on the table in November 2023 and has not moved since.

Hohenstein described the widespread impact of substance use in Philadelphia neighborhoods in remarks on the House floor and called for support for the grant program, which he described as “real treatment, not just 14 days of detox.”

Gregory, who has personal experience with the issue, has been in substance use recovery since Feb. 7, 2010. 

Gregory lost his district’s primary to a challenger in May, meaning that if the recovery bill fails to make it to the governor’s desk by November, he will not be in the legislature to see it become law.

“I was so encouraged yesterday to see that in the face of a jury convicting Hunter Biden that he acknowledged what’s most important,” Gregory said in his office on Wednesday. “By the grace of God he’s in recovery. And in recovery, anything is possible.”

Venkat’s amended opioid awareness bill now allows recovery support providers, people in substance use recovery and family members of people in recovery to apply for the grant program through the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

Applicants who live in an area with high frequency of substance use would be prioritized. Nonprofit organizations would also be eligible to apply. The grant may be used on a statewide basis or locally.

If the bill makes it through the Senate and to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk, grants could be used for recovery support services and training to support those facilities.

Grants would be funded by money appropriated to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and from the department’s opioid settlement restricted account, which gave Pennsylvania counties over $1 billion in 2023 to remedy the effects of the opioid crisis.

The grants could also be funded by federal money given to the state legislature for state opioid response management. The bill mandates the creation of an annual survey to study the success of the grant program on long-term substance use recovery.

The legislation’s opioid awareness section calls for the creation of a poster detailing information about the disease — the signs of an opioid-related overdose, how to take action if one occurs and where to locate medications, such as naloxone, that block the effects of opioids. 

The poster, along with further information in pamphlet form, would be added to the Department of Health’s website. The posters would be distributed to commonwealth agencies, transportation authorities and municipalities.

The opioid and substance use recovery bill now awaits consideration in the state Senate.

“I hope they view it as something worthwhile by the end of the session,” Gregory said, “and we can get this across the finish line.”

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.