Attorney General Praises Wyoming County Officials for Opioid Law

TUNKHANNOCK, Pa. -- Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro was in Wyoming County Friday, commending officials in the region for their work to combat the opioid crisis, specifically, their help is passing a new law.

The attorney general thanked State Senator Lisa Baker and Wyoming County Coroner Tom Kukuchka for their efforts in getting Act 69 passed.

The new law pertains to the prescription opioid medications left behind when someone in hospice care dies. Instead of family members disposing of the medications, it will now be the responsibility of health care workers.

Officials in Wyoming County are pleased with a new law that they believe brings Pennsylvania one step closer to defeating the opioid crisis.

"One, it's going to reduce the access to the medications. Second, it's going to reduce the addictions," said Michael Donahue, Wyoming County Human Services.

Act 69 was sponsored by Senator Lisa Baker and spearheaded by Wyoming County Coroner Tom Kukuchka. It allows home health care or hospice workers to dispose of opioid prescription drugs left behind following the death of patients.

Previously, it was illegal for health care providers to dispose of the meds. Officials say in some cases, families did not dispose of the medications and that contributed to the opioid problems in the area.

"What a big problem it was," Donahue said. "That's a lot of people, a lot of medications that are going to be out of the mainstream and off the streets."

Kukuchka said this new law is a major step getting opioid prescription drugs off the streets at the ground level.

"This way, when the caregiver leaves, the family signs off that they took the drugs and so it's back in the lap of the people that are dispensing them."

Hospice workers say this is something they have been waiting for.

"It takes the burden off families. The nurses then can destroy them and there's no risk and as the attorney general referred to, it's going to save lives and that's a wonderful thing," said Diane Baldi, Hospice of the Sacred Heart.

Officials tell Newswatch 16 this bill started as an idea from the Wyoming County coroner and became a law within six months, which is a relatively short time for legislation. Officials in Wyoming County say they are proud of it and hope it saves lives in Pennsylvania.