Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro says opioid abuse has become the biggest threat to keeping Pennsylvania residents safe.

"This is our number one public safety challenge in Pennsylvania, bar none," he said while presenting his office's priorities for addressing the state's opioid epidemic on Tuesday at a forum.  The event  focused on programs that connect overdose survivors to treatment.

Shapiro said his office will continue to arrest drug dealers, and hold doctors and pharmaceutical companies accountable for supplying too many prescription painkillers. But the problem calls for a "multidisciplinary" approach, he said: one that acknowledges that law enforcement is only part of the solution.

"Treatment has to be a part of this," Shaprio said. "We have to change the public stigma surrounding treatment, and we have to make treatment available and accessible."

Shaprio spoke at a forum hosted by the Independence Blue Cross Foundation where a new study of a program to increase treatment access was announced. Pennsylvania is requiring each one of its counties to put a so-called "warm handoff" protocol in place to ensure that people have a chance to start treatment immediately after surviving an overdose. The protocol means a certified recovery specialist is brought in to meet with people who have been revived from overdoses while they're still in the care of an emergency rooms or first responders.

A panel of health care providers and administrators from Bucks County spoke about the county's own warm handoff program. The study will evaluate the effectiveness of the county's system. 

The study, which is being funded by the foundation, will gather data on outcomes for overdose survivors who are offered treatment in this way.

This disclosure, Independence Blue Cross supports WHYY.