HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — This week is National Prevention Week, dedicated to increasing public awareness and action surrounding substance use disorders. Since the start of the pandemic, alcohol use and drug overdose deaths have spiked in Pennsylvania, but there’s help on the way in the form of critical funding for the state.
The state says it should be able to allocate $55 million very soon from the federal government specifically for drug and alcohol prevention and intervention to be used over the next several years. On top of that, the state should also be getting an additional $45 million for the same use.
“We do have some thoughts about how we’re going to allocate those dollars and our counties are driving a lot of those decisions,” Jen Smith, Pennsylvania drug and alcohol programs secretary said.
To help with that, the state has been doing a certain revamp over the past several years.
“Really redesign the needs assessment process at the county level to help our counties better assess what their community needs are from a prevention perspective,” Smith said.
That’s something that is especially needed now. Drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania last year surpassed the two previous years, which were down from 2017. It’s something the Cumberland – Perry Drug and Alcohol Commission saw as well.
“2018 and 2019 we saw a very significant reduction in overdose deaths in our two-county area but during 2020 with the pandemic, we lost a lot of that progress,” Jack Carroll, executive director of Cumberland Perry drug and alcohol commission said.
It’s a similar story for alcohol consumption. As of September 2020, overall frequency of alcohol consumption increased by about 14% from the previous year, according to the JAMA Network. The state says Pennsylvania is on par with that nationwide statistic. Penn State Health has seen the effects.
“There have been some months where we’ve seen just a tremendous increase in new patients. I would say at least a 50 percent increase,” Dr. Sarah Kawasaki, Penn State Health addiction medicine specialist said.
So the need is obviously there. The state will be allocating that new money to counties soon to help prevent and treat substance use disorders.