HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The stress of the holiday season can be hard for many and even more challenging for those struggling with opioid addiction. Governor Tom Wolf recently made an investment in drug treatment in hopes of tackling those holiday blues.
Wolf spent $15 million in state dollars and $5.4 million in federal dollars for the Centers of Excellence to battle the drug epidemic taking 10 lives a day in Pennsylvania.
“I was raised the oldest of three boys in Cambria County, Pennsylvania,” Jason Snyder said.
Snyder describes his family as blue collar, working class, and typical until tragedy entered their lives.
“Addiction became front and center in our lives,” Snyder said. “In 2005, my brother Todd at age 28 died of a heroin overdose.”
Todd’s girlfriend called Snyder, who found his brother dead in the kitchen.
“I had to make the phone call and told my mother Todd had overdosed,” Snyder said. “That set off a chain reaction of wailing.”
Todd left behind his five-year-old daughter Trinity.
“When it happened again a little more than two and a half years later, we were devastated,” Snyder said.
This time, Snyder’s mother called him to tell him the tragic news. His brother Josh also died of a heroin overdose and never had the chance to meet his son Paighton, who was born two months after he died.
“I was left as the last man standing so to speak, the last living child of my parents, which made it all the more difficult for me in 2011 to tell them that I was entering inpatient drug treatment for an addiction to prescription pain medication,” Snyder explained.
Stigma is one of the obstacles that stopped Snyder from getting treatment.
“I had been doing drugs and alcohol for 20 years,” he said.
He was introduced to prescription pain killers and eventually bought them on the streets.
Snyder has been clean for five years and now helps others who were once in his shoes. He works at the Department of Human Services, which runs the Centers of Excellence.
“We’re going to treat the whole person,” Snyder said. We’re not just going to treat the individual’s addiction, but we’re also going to treat any underlying mental health or physical health issues that may be driving that person’s addiction.”
Those receiving help at the Centers will received medication-assisted treatment, as well as employment opportunities and training.
“The state has to respond, and we have to do a better job of providing quality care and ensure that people stay in treatment longer if we are to begin to reverse what has been over the last several years a steadily increasing death toll,” Snyder said.
Snyder said only 48 percent of people with an opioid addiction in 2014 got treatment, and of that percentage, only 33 percent remained engaged in treatment for more than 30 days. He hopes the Centers of Excellence can change that.
“This is Governor Wolf’s really signature response to addressing the opioid epidemic,” Snyder said.
Six of the 45 Centers of Excellence are in the Midstate. You can see the full list of locations by clicking here. Patients can pay through insurance or Medicaid.
“Addiction affects anyone. It’s urban, it’s suburban, it’s families like mine, it’s comes from broken families, good families, wealthy families. It knows no boundaries,” Snyder said.
3,383 people died from drug overdoses in Pennsylvania in 2015. That’s up from more than 2,500 in 2014, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.
The Governor recently launched a toll-free hotline for people battling a heroin or prescription drug addiction. You can call 1-800-662-HELP 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotline is staffed by trained professional and is available in both English and Spanish.