Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.
These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day.
Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.
About the bill
Pennsylvania, and much of the nation, is the midst in a largely unprecedented rise in overdose deaths.
Since 2013, the annual number of lives lost to overdose deaths in Cumberland County has nearly tripled, according records provided by Cumberland County Coroner Charley Hall.
As the market for prescription opiates shifted to heroin and heroin became contaminated with fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid, drug overdoses shot up.
Between 2010 and 2016, the number of overdose deaths where the victim tested positive for fentanyl in Philadelphia more than quadrupled, according to data provided by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
Much of the heroin in Cumberland County comes through the Philadelphia market.
Rep. Bryan Barbin, R-Cambria County, has introduced a bill he hopes will reduce the amount of fentanyl available and save lives.
House Bill 1987 would limit the legal use of fentanyl to during surgery. Physicians would not be able to prescribe fentanyl for pain relief outside of the operating room.
“In the past, because of its potency, fentanyl was only used in operating rooms,” Barbin wrote in a co-sponsorship letter. “By limiting the use of fentanyl until the epidemic subsides, we will be providing needed relief to coroners, EMS providers and law enforcement.”
Barbin’s bill focuses on limiting the diversion of legally prescribed fentanyl to illicit markets. However, most of the fentanyl in the illicit markets comes from other sources, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
Much of the fentanyl contributing to a rise in overdose deaths in the United States comes from illegal production in China and Mexico, according to a report issued by the DEA in June.
“While pharmaceutical fentanyl in the form of transdermal patches or sublingual tables is diverted on a small scale, the current increase in opioid-related deaths appears to be driven by illicit products,” the report reads.
Barbin’s bill would also require the state to produce a yearly reported showing the number of overdose deaths where fentanyl or opioids were present and any reduction in the dispensing of fentanyl.
The bill would expire after two years.