In Pittsburgh – A Stark Conversation on Combating the Opioid Epidemic
In 2017, Allegheny County is on pace to set a record – one that is nothing to be proud of. So far, more than 500 people have died from drug overdoses, and officials believe the number will tally much higher by the end of the year.
To address the ongoing epidemic, state Rep. Dan Miller, D-Mt. Lebanon, organized a meeting to bring together experts, state officials and family members.
While there has been progress on several fronts, the meeting surfaced many problems still to be addressed, especially when it comes to finding treatment centers and insurance.
Caseworker Tanya Nix, a drug and alcohol case manager working in Washington, Pa., recounted how she often has to spend hours calling down lists of providers while a person in withdrawal sits watching helplessly. Then, after calls to 12 or 15 rehabilitation providers, it may turn out that there is nowhere for the patient to go.
“We’ll have a bed in four weeks,” some providers tell her. The user’s motivation to get treatment erodes. “By the third [rejection], they’re frustrated and want to give up.”
Another speaker, Kim Bishop, told the story of how her 27-year-old son became addicted after being prescribed pain killers. Now, ten years later, he is addicted to heroin and has been in and out 17 different treatment centers struggling to get clean. Along the way he has overdosed 10 different times.
“This is certainly not the life that I ever imagined for him,” she said. “Every time my phone rings, I’m just waiting for them to tell me they have my son.”
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To learn more about how Pittsburgh is addressing the opioid crisis, please visit the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.