Lawmakers and public health officials say local heroin use shows no signs of slowing.
“I’ve been in health care for over 30 years and it is the worst public health crisis I’ve ever seen,” said Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Karen Murphy. “That is what drives us, that is what gives us our passion, and I can assure you, we will not stop.”
Officials celebrated “International Overdose Awareness Day” Monday just as Pennsylvania prepped for “Recovery Month” in September. Through the next four weeks, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs along with several county drug and alcohol offices will highlight the Building Bridges to Recovery initiative, which aims to connect people to resources and reduce the stigma of drug addiction.
The department's website states that one in four Pennsylvania families is affected by addiction in some way.
“It’s killing between 2,000 and 3,000 Pennsylvanians every year and drives 70 to 80 percent of the crime in our communities,” said DDAP Secretary Gary Tennis.
Setting aside one month to host events and programs around available recovery options is one way to combat addiction as a disease. He said nationally, statistics show that some 20 million people are in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction.
“This is a time to really focus on the fact that recovery is possible, that 20 million Americans have gotten their lives back by accessing the many different bridges to recovery that are available across the nation and in Pennsylvania,” Tennis said.
Eighty percent of heroin addictions now stem from prescription drug use and abuse, according to Tennis. Recent reports show the problem is growing, especially among women and whites.