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Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Discusses Efforts to Decrease Overdose Deaths in Westmoreland County

07/07/2022

Monessen, PA - Today, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Secretary Jen Smith joined the Westmoreland Drug & Alcohol Commission, Inc. (WeDAC), substance use disorder treatment providers and prevention specialists, health care providers, and other stakeholders for a roundtable discussion on local efforts to manage the addiction crisis.

“The devasting impacts of the addiction crisis continue to be deeply felt in all corners of the state and particularly here in western Pennsylvania,” said Secretary Smith. “We know this is an issue that most closely dealt with at the local level and by engaging in discussions with the real boots on the ground, we can better learn what the current needs are to establish long-term responses to the addiction crisis to ensure we are impacting the lives of those struggling with substance use disorder in a positive way.”

According to the Department of Health, preliminary data reports 5,319 lives were lost to an overdose in Pennsylvania in 2021, with 166 reported deaths in Westmoreland County.

This roundtable is part of DDAP’s Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Listening Tour designed to meet with local leaders, SUD treatment providers, members of the recovery community, and other stakeholders to discuss SUD trends at the local level. This tour is in response to the increase in overdose deaths and polysubstance use throughout the commonwealth. To date, DDAP has held nine listening sessions with several counties throughout Pennsylvania.

The commission functions as an administrative unit whose responsibility is fiscal and program accountability to provide the best possible publicly funded services for Westmoreland County citizens in need of help with alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and other drug problems. WeDAC’s efforts include assisting clients in assuming a life-long plan of recovery that is suitable to their needs, and helping to maintain a network of prevention, treatment, and recovery support services that will provide a seamless system of services to the Westmoreland community.

“The overdose crisis impacts each and every county in Pennsylvania, yet each county faces its own distinct challenges when fighting the disease of addiction,” said Colleen Hughes, Westmoreland Drug & Alcohol Commission, Inc. Executive Director. “That is why it is so important to have the opportunity to sit at the table with state leaders and share the unique circumstances and perspectives of those working day to day at the local level to provide intervention, prevention, case management, treatment and recovery supports. They know firsthand what their clients need to fight the battle of addiction and regain control of their lives. By everyone coming together to listen and share our challenges and successes, we can win the battle against overdose deaths.”

Since Governor Tom Wolf took office, DDAP has placed a heavy focus on reducing stigma, intensifying primary prevention efforts, strengthening Pennsylvania’s drug and alcohol treatment system, and empowering sustained recovery by:

  • Implementing Life Unites Us, the first-of-its-kind, evidence-based stigma reduction campaign which reached nearly four million Pennsylvanians in year one,
  • Collecting more than 1 million pounds of prescription medication across more than 889 take-back boxes in all 67 Pennsylvania counties,
  • Launching Pennsylvania’s Get Help Now Hotline, which has connected an average of 21 Pennsylvanians per day directly to substance use disorder treatment,
  • Expanding access to naloxone in communities through Pennsylvania’s standing order, free distribution days, and mail-order naloxone program,
  • Implementing Warm Handoff Programs in 95 percent of Pennsylvania’s hospitals and referring more than 27,000 individuals to SUD treatment through those programs,
  • Increasing access to medication-assisted treatment and treatment for uninsured and underinsured individuals with SUD,
  • Awarding over $14 million in federal funding to recovery community organizations, and
  • Expanding a new, free, and confidential SUD treatment locator resource, Addiction Treatment Locator, Assessment, and Standards Platform (ATLAS) to Pennsylvania.

DDAP is the state’s leader of the Interagency Substance Use Response Team, a tool for collaboration across state government to combat the disease of addiction by focusing on the increase in polysubstance use, stimulant use, and additional SUDs emerging in Pennsylvania. The overarching goals of the response team align with DDAP’s existing strategic plan goals of reducing stigma, intensifying primary prevention, strengthening the drug and alcohol treatment system, and empowering sustained recovery.

To learn more about DDAP’s efforts in combating the addiction crisis, visit ddap.pa.gov.

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

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