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Who We Are

We are committed to ending Pennsylvania’s opioid overdose epidemic.

OverdoseFreePA

OverdoseFreePA is made possible by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and is directed and managed by the Pennsylvania Overdose Reduction Technical Assistance Center (TAC), University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. The website is a result of collaboration with county and state partners across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Our partnerships include:

  • Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association
  • Pennsylvania Medical Society
  • Pennsylvania Pharmacist Association
  • Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society
  • The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania
  • Pennsylvania Dental Association
  • Drug Enforcement Administration 360 Strategy

There are a growing number of Pennsylvania counties involved in ramping up overdose prevention, treatment, and recovery activities to address the opioid overdose epidemic. The counties involved are collaborating to develop resources that can be used by all Pennsylvanians to increase community awareness and knowledge of overdose and overdose prevention strategies as well as to support initiatives aimed at decreasing drug overdoses and deaths within the participating counties. As a centralized resource and technical assistance hub, OverdoseFreePA is a central repository for these efforts to facilitate increased treatment and prevention efforts in these communities.

Pennsylvania Opioid Overdose Reduction Technical Assistance Center (TAC)

Pennsylvania, and the nation at large, is in the midst of opioid overdose epidemic. The TAC’s vision is to lead Pennsylvania communities to zero overdoses.The TAC hopes to achieve this vision by providing concierge technical assistance in the form of data driven recommendations and customized strategic planning to counties working to eliminate overdoses. The TAC strives to lead the field in identifying and sharing strategies to eliminate overdose through the central repository of OverdoseFreePA.

Based out of the Program Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU) at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Pharmacy, the TAC assists counties and communities in assessing needs, building capacity to address the needs, developing and implementing data driven plans with high quality outcomes, and sustaining initiatives to eliminate overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal, throughout Pennsylvania.

The TAC Team

Our team provides counties with the tools and technical assistance to drive progress and make an impact.

Janice Pringle, PhD

Director of the Program Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU) 

Jan Pringle, PhD, is PERU’s Director. Dr. Pringle is an epidemiologist with extensive experience in behavioral health and pharmaceutical health research. Her particular areas of expertise are in training health professionals on Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) as well as the application of Screening, Brief Intervention (SBI) to improve medication adherence. Dr. Pringle also engages in healthcare policy research that has been used to reform policy at both the state and federal levels.

 

Meghana Aruru, PhD

Associate Director at PERU

Meghana Aruru, PhD, is the Associate Director for PERU. She earned her doctorate in Health Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2009, Masters in Business Administration from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago in 2003 and her Bachelors of Science in Pharmacy from the University of Mumbai in India. Dr. Aruru has worked for health systems in three countries – the United States, India and Haiti – and is highly versed in research and service delivery with rigorous methodological processes. She has worked as a faculty member at two schools of pharmacy, Midwestern University and Roosevelt University,  and led Roosevelt’s accreditation for the School of Pharmacy. Dr. Aruru served as a U.S.FDA consultant for the Risk Communications Advisory Committee. In her new role, Dr. Aruru aims to apply principles of effective risk communication and policy innovation to innovative care practice models to improve healthcare services and delivery.

Lynn Mirigian, PhD

Program Direct, Overdose Prevention Research Program

Lynn Mirigian, PhD, is the project director, managing a dedicated team to support counties across the Commonwealth as they mobilize to fight the increasing issue of drug overdose deaths as well as OverdoseFreePA.org. She is experienced in teaching technical information to non-experts, policy development, strategic planning, implementation, and communications. She received her doctorate degree at the National Institutes of Health through a partnership with the University of Texas Medical Branch, conducting biochemisty and cell biology research. Dr. Mirigian has also worked as an association manager in Washington, DC, conducting science policy research, marketing and administration of a peer-reviewed journal, and scientific task force management.

Laken Ethun, MPH

Public Health Director

Laken Ethun, MPH,  is the public health director for OPRP. Her expertise is in the areas of county coalition development, communication, and sustainability as well as implementation of programs that reduce opioid overdose. Additionally, she develops and plans county-level workshops related to various aspects of the opioid and drug overdose epidemic, and conducts legislative research to brief county leadership on relevant state and federal laws. Ms. Ethun holds a Masters of Public Health in Behavioral and Community Health Sciences from the University of Pittsburgh, and conducted her practicum at Prevention Point Pittsburgh. Ms. Ethun received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Saint Joseph’s University.

Erin Straw, MPH

Public Safety Director

Erin Straw, MPH, is the public safety director for OPRP.  Ms. Straw received her Master of Public Health degree in Environmental and Occupational Health with a certificate in Environmental Health Risk Assessment from the University of Pittsburgh.  Ms. Straw holds two Bachelor of Science degrees in Natural Science and Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.

 

Megan Nuef, MSW, MPH

Project Coordinator, Pennsylvania Opioid Overdose Reduction Technical Assistance Center

Megan Neuf, MSW, MPH, is the Project Coordinator for the TAC. Ms. Neuf earned joint master’s degrees in Social Work and Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh in 2015 with specialties in community health and community organizing with an emphasis on public policy. Megan’s background includes work in grantmaking foundations, issue-based advocacy organizations, and municipal government.

 

Marco Pugliese, MS

Lead Research Specialist

Marco Pugliese, MS, is a county technical assistance specialist. His expertise is in the areas of coalition health assessment and evaluation, motivational interviewing, and communication strategies. Mr. Pugliese manages the organization and content of OverdoseFreePA.org, including relationships with partner organizations. Mr. Pugliese holds a Master of Science in Health, Physical Activity, and Chronic Disease and a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Pittsburgh. Mr. Pugliese has prior research experience with the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Brendan Barstow, MS

Research Specialist

Brendan Barstow, MS, is a research specialist contributing expertise in scholarship, writing, and communication to PERU’s Overdose Prevention Reduction Program team. Mr. Barstow earned his Master’s of Science in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research & Development Center in 2016 for research on integrating AI with instructional design. Mr. Barstow received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Applied Psychology from Bryant University.

 

Allison Burrell, MPH, CPH

Research Specialist

Allison Burrell, MPH, CPH, is a county technical assistance specialist.  Ms. Burrell holds a Master of Public Health in Environmental and Occupational Health with a Certificate in Risk Assessment from the University of Pittsburgh. Ms. Burrell received her Bachelor of Science in Public Health from Oregon State University and Certificate in Global Health from the Centre for Social Medicine, Pravara Institute of Medical Sciences in India. She is certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners.

 

Erik Fay, MS

Research Specialist

Erik Fay, MS, is a research specialist with the TAC. He provides in-depth research and data analysis across several projects. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and a Master of Science in Political Science with a focus in Quantitative Analysis, both from the University of Houston. Erik is completing his PhD in Political Science at the University of Kentucky, where he conducts cross-national studies on economic defense policies. Previously, he has conducted extensive research in association with the Hobby Center for Public Policy and the Quantitative Initiative for Policy & Social Research.

Kathleen McHugh, MPH

Research Specialist

Kathleen McHugh, MPH, is a Research Specialist for OPRP where she provides technical assistance for county coalitions and provides writing support for all OPRP projects. Ms. McHugh earned her Master of Public Degree from the University of Connecticut Ms. McHugh also holds a Bachelor of Science in Allied Health Science from the University of Connecticut. Ms. McHugh’s background includes work in program evaluation, health disparities research, and health education.

 

Karley Snyder, BA

Research Specialist

Karley Snyder is a research specialist and technical writer with the Program Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Pittsburgh. Ms. Snyder provides technical assistance with PERU, and she also creates and edits a variety of visual and written content. Ms. Snyder holds dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Nonfiction Writing and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh, as well as a minor in Religious Studies. Ms. Snyder has experience with written and verbal communications, event coordination, and volunteer management.

Alexis Waksmunski, MPIA

Research Specialist

Alexis Waksmunski is a technical assistance specialist. Ms. Waksmunski earned a Master in Public and International Affairs, majoring in Security & Intelligence from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public & International Affairs. Ms. Waksmunski earned a Bachelor of Arts in Politics with a minor in Peace & Conflict Studies from Juniata College.

 

Reina Wang, PhD

Research Data Analyst

Reina Wang, PhD, is a research data analyst for the TAC. She earned her doctoral degree in rehabilitation science with a concentration in health information management, from the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Wang has prior research experience with the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve (FOCUS Pittsburgh) to develop data-driven systems to support medically under-served communities. Her areas of expertise include healthcare informatics, data analytics, and telemedicine.

 

Monica Gaydos, MA

Technical Writer

Monica Gaydos, MA, is a Technical Writer for the TAC and the Centers of Excellence (COE) projects within PERU. Monica holds a master’s degree in Social, Therapeutic, and Community Studies from the University of London. Her background in technical writing, graphics, and editing was gained from positions held at law firms, financial firms, and major publishing houses in New York City from 1990-2006, and as a freelance technical writer, editor, and grant writer for several nonprofit organizations in Pittsburgh, PA since 2006. Monica also has research, clinical, and teaching experience as a registered dance/movement therapist (R-DMT) and yoga therapist (RYT-200) and brings a strong commitment to health and wellness to her research and writing work at PERU.

Jaime Fawcett

Research Specialist

Jaime Fawcett develops comprehensive and effective visual and written content for a number of TAC’s projects, including training materials, data collection instruments, websites, academic manuscripts, reports, and grants. Ms. Fawcett received her Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing with an Additional Degree in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University in 2014 where she researched scientific writing communications and pedagogy.

 

Susan Price

Research Administrative Assistant

Susan Price has worked with the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy since 1980. Ms. Price is skilled in research and administration; she coordinates project timelines and provides data support for county coalitions. She also assists in organizing conferences and manages continuing education credits for TAC workshops.

 

Andrew Grossmann

Web Developer / Database Administrator

Andrew Grossmann is the web developer and database administrator for OverdoseFreePA. He has built online data submission/review/visualization systems for OverdoseFreePA, as well as managing the data collection and data management . Mr. Grossmann holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Design from Carnegie Mellon University (2003), specializing in Information Design and Web Design/Development.

How We Work

The opioid overdose crisis is complex, the community driven approach that we utilize will give county coalitions the skills necessary to remain focused and steadfast through any obstacles they face in reducing opioid abuse and overdose.

Our methodology relies on the following:

  • Proven Implementation Framework
  • Effective Evidence Based Programs
  • Ongoing Evaluation and Assessment

We work within a proven implementation framework developed by Dr. Janice Pringle. Learn more about the implementation framework.

We focus on effective approaches and strategies called evidence based programs (EBPs), which have undergone rigorous evaluation and peer review. The programs have been successfully replicated and are endorsed or certified by a federal agency or reputable research organization by inclusion in their registry of effective programs. Learn more about EBPs.

Evaluation and assessment of efforts is an important component to our process. We have methods to track trends in overdose death data, measure outcomes of initiatives, and show changing resource availability, such as naloxone in pharmacies. Learn more about the importance of evaluation.

We are confident that using this methodology will guide the TAC to achieving its vision of leading Pennsylvania to zero overdose deaths.

Who Supports Us

The TAC is funded by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD). Pennsylvania tax dollars pay for the OverdoseFreePA.org website.

Acknowledgements

We are honored to be joined by many other organizations in efforts to reduce overdose and overdose deaths and would like to acknowledge the following groups and organizations.

  • Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP)
  • Allegheny County Health Department
  • The Alliance for Safe and Drug-Free Children
  • The Bridge to Hope
  • Drug Free Pennsylvania
  • Prevention Point Pittsburgh
  • PennsylvaniaCommission on Crime and Delinquency
  • Drug Enforcement Administration
  • OverdoseFreePA County Coroner Collaborators
  • TAC County Collaborators
  • United States Attorney’s Office, Western District
  • University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics, Graduate School of Public Health
  • Prevention Point Pittsburgh, Prevention Point Philadelphia
  • Poison Control Pittsburgh
  • Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • Community Care Behavioral Health
  • Pennsylvania Department of Health
  • Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
  • Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs
  • Commonwealth Prevention Alliance
  • EPISCenter
  • Criminal Justice Advisory Boards
  • Allegheny County Medical Examiner Office
  • Allegheny County Health Department
  • Pennsylvania Association of County Drug and Alcohol Administrators
  • PAStop

Our Partners

Pennsylvania Medical Society
Pennsylvania Psychiatric Society
Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association
Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association
The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania
DEA 360 Strategy
Pennsylvania Dental Association