West Virginia Becomes the 29th Medical Marijuana State

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MPP WEBSITE)

West Virginia Becomes the 29th Medical Marijuana State

Apr 19, 2017 , , , , , , , ,, ,


Today, West Virginia officially became the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation!

Gov. Jim Justice signed the law today after the bipartisan bill passed both the Senate and House earlier this month.

While the law isn’t perfect, it’s a great start toward providing safe and legal access to medical marijuana for qualifying patients. A summary is available here.

This achievement didn’t happen overnight. In fact, MPP, along with many other advocates, has been working tirelessly to get a medical marijuana bill passed for years.

MPP released the following in a press release:

“This legislation is going to benefit countless West Virginia patients and families for years to come,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “Medical marijuana can be effective in treating a variety of debilitating conditions and symptoms. It is a proven pain reliever, and it is far less toxic and less addictive than a lot of prescription drugs. Providing patients with a safer alternative to opioids could turn out to be a godsend for this state.”

Six states have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws in the past 12 months. Three of those laws, including West Virginia’s, passed through Republican-controlled legislatures. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio approved them last April and June, respectively. The other three were approved by voters in November in states won by Donald Trump — Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota.

“Intensifying public support and a growing body of evidence are driving the rapid growth in the number of states adopting medical marijuana laws,” Simon said. “Lawmakers are also learning about marijuana’s medical benefits from friends, family members, and constituents who have experienced them firsthand in other states. More than nine out of 10 American voters think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes. In light of this near universal support, it is shocking that some legislatures still have not adopted effective medical marijuana laws.”

Apr 19, 2017 , , , , , , , ,, ,


Today, West Virginia officially became the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation!

Gov. Jim Justice signed the law today after the bipartisan bill passed both the Senate and House earlier this month.

While the law isn’t perfect, it’s a great start toward providing safe and legal access to medical marijuana for qualifying patients. A summary is available here.

This achievement didn’t happen overnight. In fact, MPP, along with many other advocates, has been working tirelessly to get a medical marijuana bill passed for years.

MPP released the following in a press release:

“This legislation is going to benefit countless West Virginia patients and families for years to come,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “Medical marijuana can be effective in treating a variety of debilitating conditions and symptoms. It is a proven pain reliever, and it is far less toxic and less addictive than a lot of prescription drugs. Providing patients with a safer alternative to opioids could turn out to be a godsend for this state.”

Six states have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws in the past 12 months. Three of those laws, including West Virginia’s, passed through Republican-controlled legislatures. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio approved them last April and June, respectively. The other three were approved by voters in November in states won by Donald Trump — Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota.

“Intensifying public support and a growing body of evidence are driving the rapid growth in the number of states adopting medical marijuana laws,” Simon said. “Lawmakers are also learning about marijuana’s medical benefits from friends, family members, and constituents who have experienced them firsthand in other states. More than nine out of 10 American voters think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes. In light of this near universal support, it is shocking that some legislatures still have not adopted effective medical marijuana laws.”

Republican Health-Care Plan Eliminates Mental Health And Drug Addiction Provisions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

By Katie Zezima and Chris Ingraham

The Republican proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act would strip away what advocates say is essential coverage for drug addiction treatment as the number of people dying from opiate overdoses is skyrocketing nationwide.

Beginning in 2020, the plan would eliminate an Affordable Care Act requirement that Medicaid cover basic mental-health and addiction services in states that expanded it, allowing them to decide whether to include those benefits in Medicaid plans.

The proposal would also roll back the Medicaid expansion under the act — commonly known as Obamacare — which would affect many states bearing the brunt of the opiate crisis, including Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia expanded Medicaid under the ACA.

“Taken as a whole, it is a major retreat from the effort to save lives in the opiate epidemic,” said Joshua Sharfstein, associate dean at Johns Hopkins Medical School.
Advocates and others stress that mental-health disorders sometimes fuel drug addiction, making both benefits essential to combating the opioid crisis.

Nearly 1.3 million people receive treatment for mental-health and substance abuse disorders under the Medicaid expansion, according to an estimate by health care economists Richard G. Frank of the Harvard Medical School and Sherry Glied of New York University.

House Republicans confirmed the benefit cuts during a meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Republicans on the committee argue that the change would give states additional flexibility in coverage decisions, and believe they would continue to provide addiction and mental-health coverage to Medicaid recipients if needed.

During the committee meeting, Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) asked a GOP staffer whether those benefits are “no longer essentially covered, or required to be covered, by this version of this text. Is that not correct?”

“The text before us does remove the application of the essential health benefits for the alternative benefit plans in Medicaid,” a lawyer for Republicans on the committee responded.

“Including mental health?”

“Yes.”

Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) said he and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced an amendment during the committee meeting to include mandates for substance abuse and mental-health coverage, but it was voted down along party lines.

Several Republican senators expressed concern about removing the benefits. Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stating that the plan does not “provide stability and certainty” for individuals and families enrolled in Medicaid expansion programs, or flexibility for states.

President Trump has made combating the nation’s drug-overdose problem a focal point of his campaign and his presidency.
“We will stop the drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth,” he said in a speech before Congress last week, “and we will expand treatment for those who have become so badly addicted.”

Trump has endorsed the Republican plan to replace the ACA.

“States have already been strong leaders on the opioid crisis and know the crisis within their states better than the federal government,” said a White House spokesman who was not authorized to comment and spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We expect them to prioritize the needs in their states better than the federal government ever could.”

A record number of people — 33,000 — died of opiate overdoses in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioids now kill more people than car accidents, and in 2015 the number of heroin deaths nationwide surpassed the number of deaths from gun-related homicides. Authorities are also grappling with an influx of powerful synthetic narcotics responsible for a sharp increase in overdoses and deaths over the past year.

The 15 counties with the highest death rates from opiate overdoses were in Kentucky and West Virginia, according to a group of public health researchers, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine. Both of those states expanded Medicaid. Taking away those benefits, they wrote, would affect tens of thousands of rural Americans “in the midst of an escalating epidemic.”

Medicaid pays for 49.5 percent of medication-assisted treatment in Ohio, 44.7 percent in West Virginia and 44 percent in Kentucky when the drug Buprenorphine, which is used to manage chronic opiate use disorder, is administered, according to Rebecca Farley, vice president of policy at the National Center on Behavioral Health.

Public health officials and advocates say there is a nationwide shortage of treatment programs to serve the growing problem of addiction and its effects, including diseases associated with long-term IV drug use such as hepatitis C and HIV.

Shawn Ryan, a doctor with Brightview Health in Cincinnati, which provides addiction treatment mainly to patients on Medicaid, said states are starting to increase drug addiction services to respond to rising needs, but the process could take years.

“The outpatient addiction treatment services that are starting to ramp up . . . they could be crushed by this if not done in a way that specifically protects the most vulnerable populations,” he said.

Stripping away addiction treatment services from low-income people is especially harmful, Frank, of Harvard, said in an interview, because the prevalence of drug abuse is much higher for people living well below the poverty line. He said Medicaid recipients who are covered for addiction treatment and maintain their coverage through 2020 would not lose the benefit under the GOP proposal. But, he added, because addiction is a chronic-relapse disease, people may get clean, relapse, stop working and need to go back on Medicaid.

“It’s a disease that hits suddenly at various points in the life cycle,” Frank said.

Some GOP lawmakers advocate a full repeal of the ACA, a move that would result in loss of coverage for 2.8 million people, 222,000 of whom have an opioid disorder, Frank and Glied, of NYU, estimate.

Gary Mendell, founder of the anti-addiction organization Shatterproof, said the group plans to run campaigns against the rollback in eight states were Medicaid was expanded, urging people to contact their elected officials. Mendell, whose son battled addiction and died in 2011, said the drug-abuse battle has transcended party lines. Last year, Congress passed a landmark bill to fight opiate addiction.

“It’s been a bipartisan effort to attack the opiate epidemic,” he said, “and now Republicans are putting fighting the opiate epidemic in the back seat to politics.”

Governments If You Really Want To Stop Heroin And Opiate Deaths: Then Legalize Marijuana Now

 

I know that there are folks who have read this title and had all kinds of different emotions flow over them and this is understandable. Here in the U.S. big government and big media have a long history of distorting what the truth is concerning marijuana. I credit the mainstream media for simply being stupid and running with whatever the federal government tells them. Big government and by big government I do mean from city, county, state and federal organizations where some are just ignorant, some are corrupt, and some are both concerning the concept of making marijuana legal again for the people to consume like a lot of folks do wine, champagne or beer. Yet it has been in the interest of different governments, police agencies and some big lobbyist groups to keep marijuana illegal for their own financial profits they make from such an hypocritical system. Now I know that a lot of folks who read my articles are a bit confused about my stance on legalizing marijuana or even mad at me because the underlying theme on by blog is Christianity. This is true, yet what is the title of my blog site? It is Truth Troubles isn’t it? In my belief system Christianity is Truth so truth troubles is about speaking the truth even if it is something that goes against what we hear in Church, the media, or from the government. Throughout Scripture in the Old Testament and the New Testament we are told many times that wine and alcohol were given to us humans for our enjoyment, but we are also told not to be gluttonous when we are partaking of them. God also gave mankind plants like Mandrake for our enjoyment. Remember back to the founding Fathers of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, remember Isaac had two wives of which his favorite was Rebecka and how she gave his other wife some of her Mandrake so that she could get to sleep with Isaac that night even though it wasn’t her turn? Mandrake does the same type of things as marijuana does as far as giving a person a ‘buzz’, if it is okay for the founding Fathers of Israel and their wives, you get the picture? Even here in America our own Founding Fathers like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin grew pot in their own personal gardens. Think about this for a moment, the night that Rebecca got to sleep with Isaac when it wasn’t her turn is the night she was impregnated with Jacob, the man who’s 12 sons the 12 tribes of Israel are named after. Remember that the first reported miracle of Jesus was turning water into wine and no it was obviously not ‘grape juice’ or the ‘governor’ of the party would not have referred to it as the best. As Christians we all have to quit acting like hypocrites on these issues.

 

I was born in 1956 and the first time I ever tried ‘pot’ was when I was 17, it was just some cheap homegrown that was so weak that it didn’t do anything to me. I was probably about 22 or 23 before I smoked marijuana again yet I was around lots of folks who did smoke it literally every day  when they could afford to buy it. In fact just about everyone I knew smoked it at least every once in a while. Most all of these people that I have known throughout the years didn’t even drink alcohol and if they did it was just an occasional beer. None of these people used any of the ‘hard drugs’ like Crack, Heroin or were users of pills. A lot of the people that I have known throughout my life who were able to keep smoking a little ‘pot’ in the evenings and on weekends at their homes never ever did go onto other type of drugs, not even alcohol. The Government and the big Media like to call marijuana a “gateway” drug, saying that when most people start off smoking pot that they progress into the harder drugs, the way in which they frame their argument is a lie, period.

 

The people that I know who have gone onto harder drugs like Heroin and opioid pills is because those drugs tend to flush out of a person’s system in about 72 hours. People have always throughout human history have wanted to have something they can have for relaxation and for a gentle ‘buzz’. When the U.S. Government decided to act stupid and classify marijuana a level one drug like Heroin and encouraged all businesses to start doing pre-employment and random drug screens on their workers almost all of the people that I know quit smoking marijuana because it stays in a person’s system for at least 30 days and they could not afford to lose their jobs. Most all of the people that I know who did quit smoking pot started drinking alcohol in place of it. Unfortunately there are millions of people who instead of smoking marijuana did turn to the real hard drugs. So, in a since, yes marijuana did become a ‘gateway’ drug in that people quit using it because it stayed in their systems so long that millions of people who would have never gone onto drugs other than marijuana have done so and the result is thousands of people are dying every year because of these hard drugs. Marijuana has never ever even killed one person! Now let’s look at states like Colorado since they made marijuana legal for adults, checkout the amount of overdose deaths from before they made marijuana legal and then sense they made it legal. I am no computer whiz to say the least so I will leave your investigations up to you, but I do ask you to check out the stats. I remember reading a Colorado newspaper online about two or three months ago concerning this issue and the results were rather stark, the amount of overdose deaths are way down as they are in Washington State.

 

Truth is that all this “war on marijuana” has done is to put a lot of money into drug cartels pockets and cost hundreds of thousands of people their lives. Our Nation’s policies are idiotic, un-Christian and un-Jewish as well as being immoral. If our government was really interested in cutting down on overdose deaths from these hard drugs thus cutting down on the amount of these drugs coming into our country and giving drug cartels billions of dollars each year then they would create a system where pot is treated like beer or wine. Marijuana should be made to be cheaper than Heroin, Morphine or Crack. States who have actually done what the people of their states have voted for (when they have been allowed to vote on the issue, places like here in Kentucky refuse to allow a vote on it) the States have benefited with hundreds of millions in new tax revenue along with creating thousands of new jobs to help spur their economies. When our Government decided to create this “war on drugs” they through their own ignorance and hypocrisy took a benign medically helpful God-given Erb away from the people and have been the driving force behind the reason that millions of people worldwide are now dead. If our Nation was actually serious about stopping thousands of people from dying each year to drug overdoses then they need to get a clue and make marijuana totally legal in Our Country just like beer and wine is.

States With Legal Marijuana Sales See %25 Drop In Opioid Overdoses

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF MPP BLOG SITE)

 

MPP Blog


Colorado Sees More Than $1 Billion in Marijuana Sales in 2016

Posted: 20 Dec 2016 10:42 AM PST

Legal marijuana businesses in Colorado made more than a billion dollars in sales during the first 10 months of 2016, exceeding sales numbers from last year.picstateflag_1

The Cannabist reports:

Recreational and medical cannabis shops in America’s first 420-legal state have sold nearly $1.1 billion of marijuana and related products in 2016, according to the new October data from the state’s Department of Revenue.

When 2015’s year-end marijuana tax data was finally released in February, Cannabist calculations showed $996,184,788 in sales at Colorado marijuana shops that year — spurring a leading industry attorney to tell us at the time, “I think it’s ethical to round that up to a billion.”

That same lawyer, Vicente Sederberg partner Christian Sederberg, celebrated the billion-dollar news on Mondayby also pointing to the Colorado cannabis industry’s increasing economic impact and skyrocketing tax revenues for the state as well as numerous cities and counties throughout Colorado.

“We think we’ll see $1.3 billion in sales revenue this year,” said Sederberg, “and so the economic impact of this industry — if we’re using the same multiplier from the Marijuana Policy Group’s recent report, which is totally reasonable — it suddenly eclipses a $3 billion economic impact for 2016.”

In addition to creating economic benefits, including state and local tax revenue and thousands of jobs, this legal market is on pace to continue stripping billions of dollars a year from the criminal market.

 

The post Colorado Sees More Than $1 Billion in Marijuana Sales in 2016 appeared first on MPP Blog.

Tennessee Medical Marijuana Legislation to Be Introduced

Posted: 20 Dec 2016 10:07 AM PST

Last week, Tennessee State Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-11) and Sen. Steve Dickerson (R-20) announced that they are introducing a medical marijuana bill to bring meaningful access to many patients in Tennessee.1280px-flag_of_tennessee-svg
While the full text of the bill is not yet publicly available, the legislators’ plan allows patients with a doctor’s recommendation and a $35 ID card to purchase medicine at one of 150 dispensaries across the state. They also noted that their proposed program could help address the opioid epidemic; studies have shown a 25% drop in opioid overdoses in states with effective medical marijuana programs.
If you are a Tennessee resident, please request that your legislators support the plan, and stay tuned for more information about this bill.

The post Tennessee Medical Marijuana Legislation to Be Introduced appeared first on MPP Blog.

Marijuana Now Legal In Massachusetts

Posted: 20 Dec 2016 09:44 AM PST

Massachusetts residents are allowed to legally possess and grow marijuana as of December 15, ending the state’s 100-year prohibition era marked by vast social injustices, wasteful government spending and ineffective public policyyes_on_4_logo_header

Persons age 21 and older are allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana on their person up to 10 ounces in their homes, and are permitted to give an ounce or less of marijuana to others. Any quantity above one ounce in the home must be under lock and key. Residents will also be allowed to grow six plants per person in their homes, with a maximum of 12 plants per household.

No plants can be visible by neighbors or from a public place and all growing areas must be under lock and key. Landlords have the right to prohibit smoking or growing of marijuana in their properties.

Public consumption of marijuana remains prohibited under the new law, as does the unlicensed sale of any amount.

MPP and our allies will continue to work with the state government to ensure that the rest of the law is implemented effectively so that the regulated adult market is on its feet as soon as possible.

The post Marijuana Now Legal In Massachusetts appeared first on MPP Blog.

Study: States with medical marijuana have lower prescription drug use—Plus Fewer Drug Overdoses And Deaths

 

Study: States with medical marijuana have lower prescription drug use—This Causes Fewer Drug Overdoses And Fewer Drug Related Deaths As It Is Impossible To Overdose (Die) From Marijuana Usage!

Prescription drug prices are up, making policy experts increasingly anxious. But relief could come from a surprising source. Just ask Cheech and Chong.

New research found that states that legalized medical marijuana — which is sometimes recommended for symptoms like chronic pain, anxiety or depression — saw declines in the number of Medicare prescriptions for drugs used to treat those conditions and a dip in spending by Medicare Part D, which covers the cost on prescription medications.

The study, which appears in Health Affairs, examined data from Medicare Part D from 2010 to 2013. It is the first study to examine whether legalization changes doctors’ clinical practice and whether it could curb public health costs.

The findings add context to the debate as more lawmakers express interest in medical marijuana. Ohio and Pennsylvania have this year passed laws allowing the drug for therapeutic purposes, making the practice legal in 25 states, plus Washington D.C. The question could also come to a vote in Florida and Missouri this November. A federal agency is considering reclassifying it under national drug policy to make medical marijuana more readily available.

Medical marijuana saved Medicare about $165 million in 2013, the researchers concluded. They estimated that, if the policy were nationalized, Medicare Part D spending would have declined in the same year by about $470 million. That’s about half a percent of the program’s total expenditures.

That is an admittedly small proportion of the multi-billion dollar program. But the figure is nothing to sneeze at, said W. David Bradford, a professor of public policy at the University of Georgia and one of the study’s authors.

“We wouldn’t say that saving money is the reason to adopt this. But it should be part of the discussion,” he added. “We think it’s pretty good indirect evidence that people are using this as medication.”

The researchers found that in states with medical marijuana laws on the books, the number of drug prescriptions dropped for treating anxiety, depression, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders and spasticity. Those are all conditions for which marijuana is sometimes recommended. Prescriptions for other drugs treating other conditions, meanwhile, did not decline.

The study’s authors are separately investigating the impact medical marijuana could have on prescriptions covered by Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income people. Though this research is still being finalized, they found a greater drop in prescription drug payments there, Bradford said.

If the trend bears out, it could have meaningful public health ramifications. As doctors and public health experts grapple with the consequences of excessive prescription painkiller use, medical marijuana could provide an alternate path. Experts say abuse of prescription painkillers — known as opioids — is in part driven by high prescribing. In states that legalized medical uses of marijuana, painkiller prescriptions dropped — on average, the study found, by about 1,800 daily doses filled each year per doctor. That tracks with other research on the subject.

Questions exist, though, about the possible health harms or issues that could result from regular use.

It’s unlike other drugs, such as opioids, in which overdoses are fatal, said Deepak D’Souza, a professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, who has researched the drug.

“That doesn’t happen with marijuana,” he added. “But there are whole other side effects and safety issues we need to be aware of.”

“A lot of people also worry that marijuana is a drug that can be abused,” agreed Bradford. “Just because it’s not as dangerous as some other dangerous things, it doesn’t mean you want to necessarily promote it. There’s a lot of unanswered questions.”

Meanwhile, it is difficult to predict how many people will opt for this choice instead of meds like antidepressants or opioids.

Because the federal government labels marijuana as a Schedule I drug, doctors can’t technically prescribe it. In states that have legalized medical marijuana, they can only write patients a note sending them to a dispensary. Insurance plans don’t cover it, so patients using marijuana pay out-of-pocket. Prices vary based on geography, but a patient’s recommended regimen can be as much as $400 per month. The federal Drug Enforcement Agency is considering changing that classification — a decision is expected sometime this summer. If the DEA made marijuana a Schedule II drug, that would put it in the company of drugs such as morphine and oxycodone, making it easier for doctors to prescribe and more likely that insurance would cover it.

To some, the idea that medical marijuana triggers costs savings is hollow. Instead, they say it is cost shifting. “Even if Medicare may be saving money, medical marijuana doesn’t come for free,” D’Souza said. “I have some trouble with the idea that this is a source of savings.”

Still, Bradford maintains that if the industry expanded and medical marijuana became a regular part of patient care nationally, the cost curve would bend because marijuana is cheaper than other drugs.

Lester Grinspoon, an associate professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who has written two books on the subject, echoed that possibility. Unlike with many drugs, he argued, “There’s a limit to how high a price cannabis can be sold at as a medicine.” He is not associated with the study.

And, in the midst of the debate about its economics, medical marijuana still sometimes triggers questions within the practice of medicine.

“As physicians, we are used to prescribing a dose. We don’t have good information about what is a good dose for the treatment for, say pain,” D’Souza said. “Do you say, ‘Take two hits and call me in the morning?’ I have no idea.”

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Heroine Overdoses In America An Epidemic: Many Young Children With Dead Parents

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

A 7-year-old told her bus driver she couldn’t wake her parents. Police found them dead at home.

October 5 at 6:46 AM

7-year-old told her bus driver she couldn’t wake her parents. Police found them dead at home.

Two parents were found dead of suspected drug overdoses after their 7-year-old child told her bus driver she couldn’t wake them, according to authorities in McKeesport, Pa. (WPXI)

For more than a day, the 7-year-old girl had been trying to wake her parents.

Dutifully, she got dressed in their apartment outside Pittsburgh on Monday morning and went to school, keeping her worries to herself. But on the bus ride home, McKeesport, Pa., police say, she told the driver she’d been unable to rouse the adults in her house.

Inside the home, authorities found the bodies of Christopher Dilly, 26, and Jessica Lally, 25, dead of suspected drug overdoses, according to police.

Also inside the home were three other children — ages 5 years, 3 years and 9 months.

The children were unharmed but still taken to a hospital to be checked out, then placed with the county’s department of children, youth and families.

The case cast a light on Allegheny County’s epidemic of drug overdoses — and their impact on families.

“There is an opioid overdose epidemic in the U.S., and Allegheny County is not immune,” county health officials said in a recent report.

There were 422 opioid-overdose deaths in Allegheny County last year, according to the report — the largest death toll in county history. “And the upward trend continues.”

The report noted that Allegheny County, which includes McKeesport and the city of Pittsburgh, “has experienced fatal overdose rates higher than those seen throughout Pennsylvania and many other states” during the past decade.

Illustrating their point, authorities told NBC affiliate WPXI that the double overdose at the 7-year-old’s home was the second they had responded to on that block in less than a day.

Speaking before the state legislature last week in Harrisburg, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) told lawmakers that the opioid epidemic facing Pennsylvania is “a public health crisis, the likes of which we have not before seen. Every day, we lose 10 Pennsylvanians to the disease of addiction. This disease does not have compassion, or show regard for status, gender, race or borders.

“It affects each and every Pennsylvanian, and threatens entire communities throughout our commonwealth. The disease of addiction has taken thousands of our friends and family members. In the past year alone we lost over 3,500 Pennsylvanians — a thousand more lives taken than the year before.”

Wolf added that “addiction too often is an invisible problem. … But in Pennsylvania the problem is visible: In the lives lost. The families broken. The communities shaken.”

Nationwide, opioids such as heroin and prescription pain relievers killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, more than any year on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least half of all opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription drug, the CDC said, adding that the number of overdose deaths involving opioids has nearly quadrupled nationwide since 1999.

Behind the grim statistics are haunting scenes of overdose victims — and the children affected by their parents’ addictions.

Last month, a Family Dollar store employee in Massachusetts recorded a toddler in pink pajamas crying and pulling on her unconscious mother, who had overdosed and collapsed in the toy aisle.

The mother, who survived, was charged with child endangerment. Her daughter was placed under the care of child protective services.

Toddler tries desperately to wake mother who collapsed in store

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The woman collapsed in an apparent overdose at a Family Dollar store in Lawrence, Mass., is expected to be charged with child endangerment. (Editor’s note: This video may be disturbing to viewers.) (Lawrence Police Department)

Also last month, authorities in the Ohio city of East Liverpool released a photo of a man and a woman overdosing inside a vehicle that police said had been moving erratically. The driver was barely conscious; the passenger was turning blue. In the back: a 4-year-old boy restrained in a car seat.

Someone at the scene snapped a photo of the gruesome scene and the city posted it on its Facebook page “to show the other side of this horrible drug.”

And a photo of a Birmingham, Ala., police officer comforting a 1-month-old girl in a tiny purple gingham dress raced around the Internet after her father died of an apparent drug overdose and her mother was found near death.

The officer in the picture, Michelle Burton, told The Washington Post about the moment that night that saddened her the most. The couple’s 7-year-old daughter asked the officer to sign her homework so she could turn it in at school the next day.

“That broke my heart,” Burton said. “She said, ‘I did my work.’ She pulled it out and showed it to us. It was math homework — ‘Which number is greater? Which number is odd or even?’ … I told her, ‘Sweetie, you probably won’t have to go to school tomorrow. … But where you’re going is going to have everything you need.’ ”

She added: “It was horrible. It was a very sad situation.”

In Pennsylvania’s Lycoming County, coroner Charles Kiessling started recording the manner-of-death classification in most drug-overdose deaths as homicides earlier this year.

A lot was already being done to curb heroin use in his community, Kiessling told The Post — but using an accidental-death classification for an overdose felt as if he was “sweeping the problem under the carpet, to a certain extent.”

“They’re not accidental deaths,” Kiessling said. “They’re homicides. Drug dealers are murderers. They need to be prosecuted as murderers.”

Homicide is defined as the death of an individual at the hands of another, Kiessling said; when he thought about drug deaths, the victims were dying at the hands of a dealer or supplier.

“You’re killing people if you’re selling drugs,” he said.

In March, at the National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, President Obama called opioid abuse and overdose deaths “heartbreaking,” adding: “I think the public doesn’t fully appreciate yet the scope of the problem.”

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