At the recent meeting of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania to address the ongoing problem of drug overdoses in the state, much was discussed regarding a lack of comprehensive data.
The lack of comprehensive data available about overdoses in Pennsylvania is a major obstacle that needs to be addressed. Jeremiah Daley, the executive director of the Liberty Mid-Atlantic High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, stressed the need for more reporting requirements to expand to include EMS workers, first responders, and staff at medical facilities that respond to an overdose first.
He also emphasized the need for evidence-based and evidence-informed substance abuse reform efforts, and for more effort from educators, health care providers, policymakers, and community leaders to get information to those most at risk of substance abuse and overdoses. Additionally, Daley advocated for more accessible and universally available substance abuse disorder treatment programs, and tangible support for those in recovery after treatment.
Glenn Sterner, assistant professor of criminal justice at Penn State University-Abington, stressed the importance of investing in treatment and harm-reduction strategies, such as making anti-overdose drugs like naloxone more accessible and expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, particularly buprenorphine and methadone. Sterner also advocated for developing prevention initiatives and an “early-warning system” for drug-related problems, similar to what other states are doing.
However, experts also warned against using scare tactics when educating children about the dangers of drug use, and instead emphasized the importance of effective prevention initiatives that take time. Jeff Hanley, executive director of the Commonwealth Prevention Alliance, stated that “fluff programs” should be avoided.