HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 5, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Secretary Gary Tennis has been named the Pennsylvania Rural Health Leader of the Year by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health. Secretary Tennis received this honor due to his commitment to addressing the heroin epidemic in Pennsylvania.
"Pennsylvanians who are affected by drug and alcohol addiction are fortunate to have Secretary Tennis working so hard on their behalf," said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. "His deep understanding of drug and alcohol policy and his passionate advocacy for and insistence on effective drug and alcohol treatment make him an outstanding leader and an asset to all Pennsylvanians."
The Rural Health Leader of the Year award recognizes an outstanding leader who has organized, led, developed, or expanded an exemplary multi-dimensional state rural health program or initiative that benefits rural Pennsylvanians. Chosen by an independent committee, Secretary Tennis is being recognized in part for his work to save the lives of Pennsylvanians by ensuring naloxone, a medication that reverses an opiate overdose, is widely available in all areas of the state.
"Secretary Tennis works tirelessly to lead Pennsylvania's efforts to prevent and reduce drug and alcohol abuse and to promote recovery from the disease of addiction," said Michelle Denk, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of County Drug and Alcohol Administrators, the group that nominated Secretary Tennis for the award. "For rural Pennsylvanians, Secretary Tennis has been a true champion, finding creative ways to address an issue that has reached well beyond urban settings and into rural Pennsylvania."
Under Secretary Tennis, Pennsylvania has seen the passage of Act 139, which made naloxone available to all first responders and families of people with addiction. Just last week, Secretary Tennis stood with DHS Secretary Dallas, DOH Secretary Murphy, and Governor Wolf as Pennsylvania's Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine signed a standing order making naloxone available to all Pennsylvanians. In rural Pennsylvania, Secretary Tennis has also worked with communities to encourage innovative mobile treatment approaches.
Secretary Tennis has shaped DDAP to become a change agent in Pennsylvania's approach to treating drug and alcohol addiction, in part by working with a broad range of stakeholders -- including several state departments -- to take a holistic approach in addressing the issue. DDAP has gathered key partners from across the state to create comprehensive opioid prescribing guidelines to minimize the potential for abuse and diversion of prescription narcotics; streamlined licensure practices focused on quality of care and patient safety; and has been instrumental in getting individuals leaving county jails with substance abuse issues enrolled in Medicaid and into residential drug and alcohol treatment.
In June, Secretary Tennis also received the National Ramstad/Kennedy Award for Outstanding Leadership for his leadership in recovery support across Pennsylvania. The Ramstad/Kennedy Award was established in honor of Congressmen Jim Ramstad and Patrick Kennedy, both of whom have been vocal advocates in the recovery and treatment community, championing efforts to support prevention, treatment and recovery. In 2014, the secretary received the Exceptional Leadership and Support of Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment award from the National Association of State Alcohol/Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD) in recognition of his leadership in convening an Overdose Rapid Response Task Force in response to the growing opioid crisis in Pennsylvania.
"I am honored to be recognized by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health," said Secretary Tennis. "This group's expertise on and insight into rural health, combined with the Wolf administration's commitment to addressing the opioid epidemic in all areas of Pennsylvania, has made our partnership powerful and effective. Together, we are positively affecting the lives of many rural Pennsylvanians struggling with the disease of addiction."
MEDIA CONTACT: Jason Snyder, 717-547-3314
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs