The Allegheny County Health Department reports the highest concentration of overdose deaths in the Pittsburgh region from 2008 to 2016 is an area covering parts of Mt. Oliver and neighborhoods on the southern side of Pittsburgh, like Allentown and Knoxville.
At a Board of Health meeting Wednesday, the department also noted that Prevention Point Pittsburgh, a nonprofit that dispenses the overdose medication Naloxone, has distribution sites on the North Side and East End, but not the South Side. Allegheny County Health Department director Karen Hacker said that might be due to community resistance, because Prevention Point also runs a needle exchange for IV-drug users.
“One of the things we’ve seen for many, many, many years is that when it comes to things like drug treatment programs, needle exchange, there’s a lot of not-in-my-neighbor kinds of feelings that go on,” Hacker said.
In 2017, Prevention Point distributed more than 2,100 Naloxone kits in Allegheny County, making it the biggest non-EMS provider of the medication. The second biggest was the county jail.
While 2017 saw the highest overdose fatality rate in a decade due to opioids, there has been some better news. Starting in October, the number of overdose deaths began to decrease significantly, and overdose visits to emergency rooms also dropped.
This might be because more people are keeping Naloxone in their homes and using the medication instead of calling EMS during an overdose emergency.
“We are also seeing a decline in the volume of opioids that are available, there are some discussions about whether people are transitioning to other drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine,” said Hacker. “Bottom line is: I don’t know we’ll ever know. But our hope obviously is that this epidemic begins to decline.”
The majority of the 126 police departments in the county now carry Naloxone and virtually all emergency rooms are giving the medicine to discharged overdose patients.
The health department said it has also distributed the medication to immunization clinics, mental health and substance abuse providers, public defenders, food pantries, libraries and other community organizations. Some area high schools are also have it and pharmacies are stocking it.
Between Jan. 1 of this year and the end of March, there have been 74 documented instances of people being revived from overdoses with Nalaxone in Allegheny County.