PITTSBURGH, Aug. 27, 2014 — With funding from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy’s Program Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU) has launched a statewide overdose prevention website called OverdoseFreePA, which aims to support efforts within participating counties to reduce overdose and overdose deaths. The site’s URL is www.overdosefreepa.pitt.edu.
A pilot application is being developed for OverdoseFreePA that will allow the public to browse close-to-real-time overdose death statistics by categories such as gender, age, race and type of drug. This pilot will begin by using the overdose death statistics from Allegheny County. PERU’s collaborators include the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office, and the Single County Authorities (SCAs) of Allegheny, Butler, Bucks, Blair, Dauphin, Delaware and Westmoreland counties on this important project.
“Data from the National Center for Health Statistics indicate that drug-related deaths have skyrocketed across the nation in recent years, especially in Pennsylvania,” said Janice Pringle, Ph.D., associate professor and director of PERU. “The new website could help show Pennsylvanians the true effect of overdoses within their community and provide resources for increasing public awareness of the overdose risk and strategies for reducing this risk.”
“These are deaths that didn’t have to happen,” she noted. “We can prevent them using compassionate approaches to addiction treatment and education, and by creating a unified front from which to approach the problem.”
Dr. Pringle added that every community in the Commonwealth must support those suffering from Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) in the appropriate way. Contributing to the problem is prescription opiate abuse, which has become significantly more prevalent throughout Pennsylvania—including in the suburbs.
OverdoseFreePA provides presentations and educational curricula that are evidence-based and tailored to a number of target audiences, including the public, SUD treatment professionals, criminal justice system personnel, health care providers and more. The website also will include documents that describe how to effectively link high-risk individuals to SUD treatment and recovery, and strategies for building and maintaining community coalitions that address overdose prevention locally.
“Overdose deaths are rapidly increasing in Pennsylvania and it is critical to have the tools for identifying risks, implementing training and for intervention in evidence-based tools,” DDAP Secretary Gary Tennis said. “We applaud PERU for leading this pilot initiative and for their partnership in attacking the overdose issue in Pennsylvania.”
“In Pennsylvania, we are focused on a multi-pronged approach to addressing the issue of drug overdose,” said project partner Diane W. Rosati, executive director of Bucks County Drug & Alcohol Commission, Inc. “In addition to concentrating on community partnerships, prevention/treatment/recovery strategies, outreach, law enforcement efforts and family support, the Bucks County Drug & Alcohol Commission is pleased to partner with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the other SCAs to launch the OverdoseFreePA website.”
Ms. Rosati said the website will provide Pennsylvanians with access to useful resources and support, including local statistical data, an Expert Speaker’s Bureau and resources for educating themselves about this important issue.