Cambria County officials discuss ways to decrease overdose deaths

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JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (WTAJ) — Officials met Tuesday in Cambria County to present ways to manage the addiction crisis and overall decrease overdose deaths locally and across the commonwealth.

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Secretary Jen Smith joined Cambria County Drug and Alcohol Program, county officials and stakeholders for a roundtable discussion on a series of ideas that can help tackle addiction problems in the area.

The DDAP, according to Smith, 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 942,491 pounds of prescription medication across more than 880 take-back boxes in all 67 Pennsylvania counties
  • Launching Pennsylvania’s Get Help Now Hotline and directly connecting more than 43,000 Pennsylvanians with substance use disorder (SUD) 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

This roundtable discussion in Johnstown is part of DDAP’s SUD Listening Tour, which is designed to discuss SUD at the local level to target specific goals for each community. The tour is a response to the increase in overdose deaths and polysubstance use throughout the commonwealth.

“The co-occurring impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the addiction crisis have been deeply felt in Pennsylvania and signal a need to address how we are combatting this disease,” Smith said. “We must continue to work together with the Cambria County Drug and Alcohol Program, and partners like them, across the commonwealth to ensure we are impacting the lives of those struggling with substance use disorder in a positive way.”

The Cambria County Drug and Alcohol Program is the best point of contact to help individuals in the immediate area to find appropriate treatment for themselves or a loved one, Smith said. They offer services including connections to treatment providers and recovery support services, school-based and community prevention programs and Narcan distribution.

“Our first responders have saved many lives with Narcan and we have improved access to needed medications and treatment,” Cambria County Drug and Alcohol Program Administrator Fred Oliveros said. “This conversation also tells us that we can prevent overdoses by providing strong supports for those who are at high risk of substance use, including those who have experienced personal trauma, as well as through our ongoing support of individuals who are living in recovery.”

For more information on how the DDAP is combatting the addiction crisis, head to their website.

More information Cambria County Drug and Alcohol Program can be found on their website.

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