DDAP expands its focus in the fight against substance use across Pa.

Local News

CLEARFIELD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith joined Liberty Mid Atlantic High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) on Monday to discuss the need to expand our lens of focus from opioids to fighting overall substance use disorder with the increase of polysubstance and stimulant use across the commonwealth.

“Throughout the past year and a half, the Wolf Administration has been able to reevaluate our role in combatting substance use disorder,” said DDAP Secretary Jen Smith. “With the increase in polysubstance use and stimulants across the commonwealth, we have recommitted ourselves to tackling substance use disorder as a whole with the goal of offsetting the devastating increase in overdose deaths.”

Since the pandemic began, the number of individuals using polysubstance and stimulants has gone up across the commonwealth. And with it, the number of overdoses has skyrocketed as well. Following a record-high 5,400 overdose deaths across Pa. in 2017, the number dropped 18% in 2018-19. But in 2020, amid isolation and the pandemic, there were 5,200 overdoses.

To combat this, the interagency substance use response team expand its focus to all substances.

“Breaking down barriers for treatment through stigma reduction, and expanding our lens of focus to offset the devastating impacts of the increase in overdose deaths,” Smith said.

Part of this recommitment is the transition from the Opioid Command Center (OCC) to the Interagency Substance Use Response Team- a new tool for collaboration across state governments to combat the disease of addiction. In replacing the current OCC structure, this newly established group will shift its focus from solely opioids to all SUDs due to the increase in polysubstance use, stimulant use, and additional SUDs emerging in Pennsylvania.

16% of treatment admissions for stimulants as the primary substance were reported in 2020, according to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. Up from 11% in 2018. This increase was also seen at the Clearfield Jefferson Drug and Alcohol Commission. The CJDAC’s executive director Susan Ford said they have treated more than 700 people in the past year, up from an average of approximately 200 patients in previous years.

“There is no one drug all the time that we have to work with,” Ford said, adding 25 people overdosed in Clearfield County in 2020, and 11 in Jefferson County, an alarmingly high number. “The majority of those deaths were fentanyl-related, but then we also saw a lot of methamphetamine and stimulant drugs in there.”

At the CJDAC, the state approved funding to purchase five cases of Naloxone, an overdose treatment spray. It is free to pick up at their offices. DDAP is also offering Naloxone, you can print a document here and take it to your local pharmacy to obtain Naloxone.

This group will serve as a platform to make informed decisions with the goal of resolving policy, media, procedural, and/or funding matters in relation to SUD and the addiction crisis across the commonwealth. The overarching goals of this group will remain fairly consistent with the OCC Strategic Plans goals of prevention, rescue, treatment, recovery, sustainability; however, specific focus on these goals will be looked at through the lens of DDAP’s existing strategic plan goals of reducing stigma, intensifying primary prevention, strengthening the drug and alcohol treatment system, and empowering sustained recovery.

Sign up for the WTAJ Newsletter for the latest local news, weather, and community events that matter to you.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

Don't Miss