Wolf's decision to declare the problem a "statewide disaster" was unusual in the sense that such declarations are typically reserved for natural disasters such as blizzards and hurricanes and involve the mobilization of emergency responders and the National Guard.
In Lancaster County, 165 people died from drug overdoses previous year - a lot of them using prescription painkillers, heroin or fentanyl, according to county coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni. "We look forward to working with the General Assembly and administration on meaningful reforms that serve our residents and families, as well as guide the future health of our communities".
"While we have made progress in combatting the heroin and opioid abuse crisis and drastically expanded Pennsylvania's response, we are still losing far too many Pennsylvanians", the Democrat said in a statement.
Several regulations will also be waived that officials say will expand access to treatment.
The declaration will establish a new group comprised of heads of the state's health, emergency, and law enforcement departments.
Changes include letting high-performing drug treatment facilities bypass some licensing requirements, and letting emergency workers leave extra Naloxone with overdose patients in case they need to be revived again. With the governor's order, the state will waive that requirement so that other health care professionals can give the go-ahead to get people into drug treatment as soon as possible.
It's the first time a disaster emergency has been declared for a public health crisis in the commonwealth.
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That's up from 117 people who died from overdoses in 2016 and 84 overdose deaths in 2015.
The state's delay in rolling out a drug monitoring program may be part of the reason why Pennsylvania is still seeing deaths increase, he said. "As the devastating effects of this epidemic continue to ravage communities in Pennsylvania, today's declaration sends a clear message that more work remains to be done".
Measures to cut through red tape and connect addicts to services more quickly "is very exciting", she added.
The state's top prosecutor, Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, called Wolf's action an important step.
"Our arrests of medical personnel and others for illegally diverting prescription drugs are up 72 percent", he said.
Those law enforcement efforts alone won't solve the problem, he said.
In Hampden Township, Cumberland County, Police Chief Steven Junkin says he welcomes Wolf's declaration, but what police really needs is to be allowed to intervene when someone poses a high risk to themselves in the same way that they can intervene when someone is suicidal.