Pa. attempts to tackle holiday uptick in drug overdoses with a week of outreach

Cherri Gregg
December 10, 2018 - 2:26 pm
Gov. Tom Wolf discusses the availability of naloxone in Pennsylvania pharmacies during a press conference in Harrisburg, May 17, 2016.

The Office of Governor Tom Wolf via Flickr

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The amount of overdoses increases during the holiday season, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To combat the rising numbers, the Wolf administration is working to save lives through a new project called "Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now."

The commonwealth-driven effort intends to help fight the opioid crisis by working to reduce the stigma of addiction, distribute free lifesaving naloxone, and make recovery options available to those who need it most.

"In order to do that, we have really marshaled the efforts of a lot of state-driven agencies," noted Ray Barishansky, deputy secretary of health preparedness for the Pennsylvania Department of Health. 

He said 13 Pennsylvanians die every day due to opioid overdoses. But since November 2014, more than 20,000 people have been revived with naloxone, and since 2016, nearly 3,000 people have been transferred into treatment via the state’s warm handoff program.

So this week, the health department has teamed up with other state agencies to host events across the state, increasing awareness and preventative measures.

"Going out, meeting with boots-on-the-ground people, whether that's in regard to emergency medical services, agencies, or any other entity, as well as meeting with the public," Barishansky explained.

He said they created the week of outreach "to make sure people know that whether they are in recovery, whether are in crisis, that they have some place to go, that they have resources that are being devoted to them."

Events kick off Monday at University of Pennsylvania with an forum on opioid prescribing guidelines. On Thursday, there will be a press conference in Port Richmond on naloxone in pharmacies. People will also be able to pick up free naloxone — no requirements, no ID, no fee — at more than 80 locations across the state.

"All of our state health centers, as well as county and municipal health departments, will be giving out free naloxone to everybody," Barishansky added.

Other events will talk about the importance of naloxone and Medication-Assisted Treatment (PacMAT) programs, announce a new program for grandparents raising grandchildren as part of the opioid crisis, and meet with Department of Corrections officials and inmates in relation to its opioid treatment center.

To see Stop Overdoses in PA events in Philadelphia, visit phila.gov. For more related workshops across the commonwealth this week, visit, pa.gov