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Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Honors the Lives of Pennsylvanians Lost to Substance Use Disorder on International Overdose Awareness Day

08/31/2021

Harrisburg, PA - Today, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Secretary Jen Smith joined with the Pennsylvania chapter of Team Sharing, Inc., a national non-profit organization made up of parents who have lost a child to substance use disorder (SUD), to honor the lives of Pennsylvanians lost due to an overdose death. State lawmakers and other stakeholders also participated in the event, which was held on the steps of the state Capitol.

The event was held in observance of International Overdose Awareness Day. The global campaign is held annually on August 31 to acknowledge the grief surrounding the loss of a loved one to an overdose, reduce the stigma associated with substance use disorder, and spread the message that drug overdoses are preventable.

“Today is a day of reflection and remembrance in Pennsylvania,” said DDAP Secretary Jen Smith. “It is important for us to come together and honor the lives of those lost to an overdose and continue to provide support and hope to individuals who are on their recovery journey.”

Advocacy organizations, community members, and individuals who have lost a loved one participated in the event, which was held on the steps of the state Capitol. The event featured Narcan training demonstrations, as well as information on how to obtain the life-saving drug, a butterfly release, and a sectioned-off area for friends and family to place a picture or pair of shoes, honoring a loved one who lost their battle with substance use disorder.

“The Wolf administration has made significant strides in addressing the opioid epidemic at the state level, and we must recommit to those efforts as we continue to manage this crisis,” said Smith. “Overdose death numbers for 2020 slid back to near-record levels as the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted this public health crisis. We must double-down on what we know works: reducing the stigma surrounding SUD and ensuring resources for those who are struggling,”

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, preliminary numbers show there have been 5,063 drug overdose deaths reported for 2020 through July 21, 2021 in Pennsylvania, marking a substantial increase from recent years. It is an increase of more than 600 drug overdose deaths reported in 2019 and ranks second only to 2017, in which there were 5,403 overdose deaths.

Individuals looking for substance use disorder treatment options or resources for themselves can call DDAP’s Get Help Now Hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). This helpline is free and confidential and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. A live chat option is also available online as well as a texting option at 717-216-0905 to be connected directly to local treatment options and resources.

For more information, visit ddap.pa.gov.

MEDIA CONTACT: Stephany Dugan - ra-dapressoffice@pa.gov


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