HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A two-day conference is targeting the overdose crisis in Pennsylvania. Government officials, medical professionals, and law enforcement are at the state Capitol for the event hosted the first time by the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Coalition.
The overdose crisis is personal for many Pennsylvanians, including the people behind this statewide overdose prevention conference.
“I’m a survivor of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. I developed a substance use disorder to manage my trauma. I practiced medicine for over a decade and lost my license to my addiction,” said Sean Fogler, a community outreach coordinator for the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Coalition.
“I struggled with drug use for over 10 years. Thankfully, today, I have over 12 years in recovery, and I want everybody to have the opportunity that I did,” said Devin Reaves, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Coalition.
Almost 300 professionals from across the state joined together for the conference.
“We’re talking about low barrier medication-assisted treatment, naloxone distribution, things such as LEAD programs, things like syringe service programs, things that protect people who use drugs and provide pathways to get them into recovery,” said Fogler.
Some sessions focus heavily on context: how law enforcement views the epidemic, as well as those in medicine.
“Trauma has come up. We have vets. We have elderly special needs. There are special needs based on who you are. We’ve got to treat the person, the whole person,” said Monica Driscoll, Recovery Centers of America.
Pennsylvania had the highest number of drug overdose deaths in 2017 among all U.S. states, and more than double the national average according to the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Coalition.