Officials seek to build coalition to combat state’s heroin epidemic

TAC holds regional training seminar

LEWISTOWN — Heroin use continues to be a problem in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation. As part of a countywide effort to combat the epidemic, several people attended a training seminar on Monday.

The Pennsylvania Heroin Overdose Prevention Technical Assistance Center put on the training seminar at the Compass Center in Lewistown, where people from several counties gathered to

explore the idea of forming a regional coalition to combat the heroin problem.

Those who attended the seminar included emergency responders, law enforcement, health professionals and community non-profit groups. In addition, some in attendance were part of a coalition in the 1990s when previous heroin scourge swept through Pennsylvania.

The TAC is based out of the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy and funding for the prevention program comes from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

Project Director Lynn Mirigian said the program is relatively new and Pennsylvania has been slow in responding to the crisis.

Research Specialist Laken Ethun also participated at the event.

Ethun said she works closely with the county coalitions to get them up and running. Coalitions learn how to assess their current organizational strengths  and challenges for addressing overdose using a systems framework developed at the Program Evaluation and Research Unit at TAC.

Mirigian said getting public safety and public health officials together on coalitions is of a great importance.

“We suggest using evidence based strategies,” she said.

In 2015, the Pennsylvania drug related overdose death rate was 26 per 100,000 people.

In Juniata County, an estimated 1,733 people have a Substance Use Disorder, of that 192 have an Opioid Use Disorder and 41 people are using heroin.

Mifflin County has an estimated 3,228 people with a SUD, 269 using prescription opioids and 77 using heroin.

Perry County has an estimated 3,194 people with SUD, 354 with an OUD, 266 using prescription opioids and 76 using heroin.

Lastly, Huntingdon County has an estimated 3,289 people with SUD, 364 with an OUD, 274 using prescription opioids and 78 using heroin.

“The entire community must work together quickly and decisively,” Mirigian said.

Ongoing technical assistance in the form of training and resources will be made available through TAC to participating coalitions. The TAC will also assist counties in developing evaluation strategies that will  assess their progress toward reducing overdose deaths.