PA AG Josh Shapiro

Newsmaker Interviews
Wednesday, July 12th

Attorney General Josh Shapiro has unveiled a major initiative to supply 300,000 Drug Deactivation Pouches in 12 PA counties hit hardest by the opioid epidemic.....WILK's Sue Henry spoke with him to find out more about it.


Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Pennsylvania attorney general Josh repair and now we appreciate you taking the time so much. And good morning. Woolsey thanks for having me on I appreciated and thanks food channel and on this critically important issue. Well I would we feel that we are eight in the sick of this really. In no loser and a lack on counties and we want it talk first of all about something. The U unveiled yesterday. And in the announcement he did talk about those two counties so I do talk about. This approach that you're taking to try to mitigate this OP would epidemic in our state. Actually in a lot of military counties are two carries were really focused on. We just think if step back to pretend to insert a table for just a moment on on this crisis knighthood in the run up. Took my call in here you use sided the very troubling numbers which is we lost 4642. Pennsylvanians to fatal overdose is in the last you heard. To put that into some perspective that's thirteen pennsylvanians. That day. And we know the lack wanna Lucerne worked very hard hit in those figures and so. Its chief law enforcement officer Pennsylvania we have a responsibility to address this crisis time so that's my top priority. But also said we can't Lester ran this crisis now but don't part that we arrest. On average of three drug dealers a date enforceable to have been an office which is an uptick from what we were doing in the past including in northeastern Pennsylvania. We've also increased and actually doubled our number after first arrest that's were doctor Ursula Mike got. Illegally sell or gives away a push corruption. You know for improper purposes. Also so that we've got to do our best to stop people from becoming addicted in the first place. And treat those who were addicts who are nonviolent and suffering from disease and they're not criminals. The way we can help. Stop people from becoming addicted is to get these old medicine's out of people's cabinet particularly the open you are painkillers. That's essentially the one who does that have to do it as well but in reality. 80%. Open when users start. With the illegal prescription drug like OxyContin and perk perk cassette 80%. And 70% of them actually get that prescription from a friend or relative or something that was going around in amassing cabinet. So across Pennsylvania we sent these drug drop boxes were people can. Common dump bill medications and hopefully that'll be one piece. Of the effort to you know stop people from becoming addicted. But there's so many counties that are hard hit they have big rule areas that are typically forgotten. And I think there's areas of black one and was and that fit this bill and I wanna make it very clear that I've not forgot these communities and were actually taking. You know that the resources like to their local pharmacies and right to their local homes so yesterday. I announced it Black Swan and Lucerne county pharmacies there. And 77 of them. Would be getting these cultures that people can get for free every time they get scheduled to narcotic I cannot account or something like that. And the options can go home with them they can take any unused medications compliment that touts a little bit warm water and air shake it up and total in the regular trash cans. And so now the public can actually help us deal with this crisis by getting rid of their unused medications and that's what we thought it was important take this fight late a lack one or military academy and and have the full of folks that help us in this battle. Oh my goodness this is a revolutionary because you know that two people have been. Though a little bit timid to maybe give flushed this Steffi as they hear that it gets in the water table and they're afraid of that so maybe they do hang onto bay what you're saying is this is. A perfectly reasonable way to dissolve these things. Absolutely think about it if you're in certain parts of of loose during campaign you know have access to one of these drug Dropbox as. You've got you know two bad choices either to leave these dangerous drugs in your medicine cabinet warrior king injure others can grab it. Fortunate crushing down the toilet which is really bad for the apartment so these options are both environmentally safe. And also chemically safe to render these pills basically useless and you know and and basically kill the pills. That is really really we think Smart approach to helping deal with this crisis. I'm calling on you know the progress and so lack while those are going to help us in this battle we cannot do this. Just what law enforcement we need everybody involved in this is a good way that people can get involved and help to their communities. He also bring up really excellent points a bow. Howell this this may break out in the first place and that is. Through. A prescription when someone is in pain and beyond and they the Dennis to I heard Josh is one place world a lot of people often. Gets. I know appeal laid and then all of a sudden they find the sounds in real. I have trouble it emphasizing that. You know there's a short prescription or maybe no prescription at all you working with. The medical community in some kind of in your face at that that is part of the issue. I am in and that's very question to look. As they sit atop the resting doctors and nurses and other health care providers who were the legally what we call took sorting. These prescription drugs firm proper usage. But we're also working really hard to change the culture of how they pushed. And getting them to push aside lesser lesser game not to push that bit on the look. There's some people who are listening to your show right now. Who she's genuinely need no popular painkiller and use it responsibly I don't wanna change after them. But there are other incidents like you just said some get to root canal and maybe they needed Payer to sort through this pain medication. They come home with thirty or sixty pills from their dentist and that's crazy and so we've been working closely with the Pennsylvania medical society and other medical groups to try and change that culture. And I will say anecdotally it seems like that culture is changing and then doctors are. Other cult departure from much more aware now of the dangers of these painkillers and working with such to try to address the crisis. And also that the state of Pennsylvania has a better way to attract. Some of these medications and are you. We do we have a prescription drug monitoring system where. And others in law enforcement are able to go and track. You know docs who are you know prescribing and hired eight in military prescribing. Obviously while protecting beat the identity since the pennsylvanians and keeping that information confidential. But that's an important tool that we're using. In order to combat this epidemic. If so this prescribing at a higher rainy. What happens. Well they can be notified him and let them know that there you know their push guardian alarming greater rate that is you know sort of not conforming with other. Doctors in their region with a similar practices and we should just again anecdotally. I don't yet have the data to back yourself but I can tell you anecdotally. That has had a positive effect on this and in terms of giving doctors to rethink your approach. Thank you you also ROR a proponent. Of treatment because as you mentioned in this phone call that a lot of people who get involved in addiction are not. Criminals. There there are addicts and they need help the one thing that we often think about was treatment is that. It has a limited. Effects but you're still seeing. That aired that the option of treatments in a case for someone and maybe has crossed the line and none in trouble. She is it most certainly be exercised in probably at the end of the day may be more cost effective than of course lengthy incarceration. I'm a big proponent of spa treatment it now want to be very clear I understand the difference. Between a drug dealer who's wreaking Havoc in Wilkes-Barre Scranton. We need to be arrested locked up for a long time. And someone whose nonviolent some of the who's not dealing in someone who's just addicted. Likely means it beats Jim sent away from the criminal justice system and put into treatment. It's why I've worked so hard to try to convinced has spurred legislators and our representatives in Washington. To make sure that there is guaranteed access to treatment that not be taken away. It's also arrived recently I spoke to insurance company health insurance company executives in Philadelphia. Just today published op Ed in the Pittsburgh post gazette on the same topic challenging insurance companies. Can take down the barriers that have been erected to stop people from getting access to treatment or work. When they get that treatment getting kicked off for the treatment before they're ready to go homer before they're ready to be done. I think he's insurance company policies so often have a perverse incentive for people to. Stay on the popular painkillers and stay out of treatment and we need to change that I've been working very hard. With the insurance industry do that there are some positive signs for example we've seen by independence blue cross major insurance southeastern Pennsylvania. Begin to limit doctors just five days of about. Pushed diving purses you know thirty or sixty days we've seen some loosening up put restrictions on access to treatment. These are positive steps but a lot more needs to be done. If we look at a map of the country gash it seems that there are areas where there. There really is not this problem at all and then the East Coast. Pennsylvania of course included it looks absolutely. Bombarded. Do you have any. Inclination from talking to various individuals as to why. But Pennsylvania has some good food highest overdose death trade in the country behind California and Ohio. And if you can you know he map if you will of the country. You're looking at West Virginia and Ohio and Pennsylvania Kentucky states like that with very very. Alarming rates pumped I don't think that there is one specific reason why. But I can tell you that he's the involves you know the I think a little production and mass marketing and he's so good painkillers by. Problems who accomplished for the reasons why I announced a couple weeks ago the Pennsylvania. Is the lead state in a massive multi state investigation into the open you would manufacturing industry. I think part of it pass to do it just the availability. Of very very cheaper heroin in those states is compared to others. The part that has to do with the fact that you know we haven't necessarily had the most coordinated response in the past I think we have that now certainly. At all levels of law enforcement which is terrific cooperation. So I think you know that their whole host of reasons for Peru I can tell you this were really focused on. The solutions right now and work them and our partners in law enforcement and health care and government in order to effectuate. They needed change. Obviously the them the impetus here should be in getting people to be educated in what can happen to them. Should they go down this path and I would a man aren't. You should reach down to. The the grade school level I mean if you can reach an audience in the and that level. And you can convince them that this. Is a very serious issue which can addict maybe kill you or lead to incarceration. In so it's a pretty powerful message. When I was a kid you saw a lot of heroin addicts on television that scared the this yeah armor. What approach you think is effective for that generation. That can be swayed at this point and doesn't have. Any kind of opinion form numbness. It it's a great questions for the reasons why we started the office. Of public education we hope we want pub public engaged excuse me. We wanted to make sure that my office dealt with not just arrest in the dealers not just promoting. Treatment and pick up but actually getting out and trying to convince people to never try to suffer in the first place. And so we think that engagement education piece is really really important and I shouldn't schools in northeastern Pennsylvania. Talking about this I'm not a big believer in. Just say no I I don't know that that's worked ever got four young children and they want their dad discussing saying no no no I think. We needed. Talked to students and and of course. You know in a mature way we need to explain to them the dangers. I think one of the areas where we are are really behind the curve on is when it comes to prescription drugs. Lot of students a lot of young people don't realize how dangerous these prescriptions are you think about it their period of medicine cabinet. There are an official looking bottle right their parents got it first some legitimate purpose so presumably. So what could be so bad about it they think and that's a very dangerous attitude I think that's a big attitude change that we need to that we need to have. Focusing in on and we're doing a lot of that work in my office and of the DA's are doing work on that schools seem to do work on that so. Work we're trying to come up with sort of a curriculum and small online materials that we think can be helpful in that process and it's really really important part of this fight. The other part that that goes with the illegal stuff that the final car finalists. Just so does the massive introduction of these things in two street drugs is most certainly troubling because it seems to me that they can slip. In to the country I guess in small commodity is very can be mailed how are you addressing that to try to keep that out of here at eight if that is hot. So all it's very hard but look I work with attorneys general in other states for anything crossing our borders and Pennsylvania. Most recently we had major heroin pipeline that went from New York City. York Pennsylvania to Altoona. It has dumped 750000. Bags of heroin. Into the commonwealth and we shut that down to working with our partners at the federal level and and other states. Who refer closely with did DEA. And the FBI and US attorney's offices. In order to Baptist they're they're just terrific partners and their they're doing a great job. Think the more we can collaborate in law enforcement and share information the better we can protect Pennsylvania that's exactly what I do we stick. It was so nice to talk to you today Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro hopefully get to talk again in the future about this issue. And other issues because I know this is not your only focus obviously have many other things going on we get here and releases sell almost on a daily basis and. Others lot of important work that's being done on behalf of the citizens of the commonwealth and I appreciate it. Woolsey thank you work hard further people Pennsylvanian. I'd love to come on your show regularly eating give you updates in the I really thank you for your interest it thank you for talking about these this important issue is a civics might. Top public safety of public health priority and my officers worked incredibly hard on these things and so thanks very much for your time. Can't see those young that people on the end in the obituary section every day and then some of the other people now I notice so awful the F family members are more public about their pronouncement. That says their child was an addict and it's it's heart wrenching and I would like to see a much different future for us. I hope so I mean you just have so many stories. Of parent parents have talked to him. In Scranton recently who were telling me. About their you know their child who is still all around good kid actually got hurt got prescribed these opiate painkillers. Took some got hooked got addicted went down on the streets to Scranton by NO PO painkiller illegally. Cost and 75 bucks a pill ran out of money doing that and so they switched to zone which is only five but to back and that process that evolution. From you know good kid star athlete who blows that is me to addicts. To overdose step. Often times can be a matter of months that's how fast it is. And so once people understand these Serb you know people on our communities their black quite brown there Richard Porter. Men and women boys and girls and is the candidate to seize this epidemic this crisis. Knows no limits or boundaries those so class or racial or social economic downed trees and we have got to work together to combat it and it's for the reasons why we're delivering these pouches two of plaque on Lucerne county targeting these communities with additionally it. It would Ditka I got a note from a crime watch member would crime watches the show me receiving these in the new issue performed. Thank you know at this point we've been working through pharmacies but companies loading gauge with a local crime much. Task forces and see if there's a way wish they can help us where that. Which were starting with 300000 of these couches and certainly if we need more will get more and if they can assist us in the process that's terrific. Super clean and we appreciate taken all this time with us this morning it was great to have you on the show thanks. Thank you are back.