Formed to combat the ongoing epidemic in the area, the Washington Opioid Overdose Coalition is making an impact and saving lives.
The coalition, whose vision is “to eliminate opioid overdoses, stigma associated with Opioid Use Disorder, and to ensure every patient with an Opioid Use Disorder has access to and support throughout treatment and recovery,” meets monthly at the Washington County Courthouse Jury Lounge.
Members of the coalition include representatives of the Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission, Washington County District Attorney’s Office, Washington County Coroner’s Office, Washington Ambulance and Chair, Washington Department of Public Safety, Monongahela Valley Hospital, Washington Health System, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The coalition also includes members of the faith-based community, recovery community members, prevention specialists, treatment providers, members of county government, law enforcement, and youth service workers. Cheryl Andrews, Executive Director of Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission, and Gene Vittone, District Attorney of Washington County, co-chair the coalition.
The coalition recently approved a three-year strategic plan which identifies the following priorities:
- Coordinate efforts between law enforcement, the legal system, and treatment.
- Increase access and utilization of naloxone to save lives.
- Increase community awareness to reduce stigma.
- Educate individuals and families about addiction and overdose, particularly those at high-risk, and all persons in contact with high-risk individuals ,and those with an OUD or addiction.
- Increase access and utilization of SUD treatment programs.
Facts About the Opioid Epidemic*
- Heroin-related overdose deaths have quadrupled since 2010, as the heroin use has increased during that time frame.
- From 2014-2015, heroin overdose death rates increased by 20.6%, with nearly 13,000 people dying in 2015.
- Among new heroin users, approximately 3 out of 4 report having abused prescription opioids prior to using heroin.
- More than 9 in 10 people who used heroin also used at least one other drug.
- In 2015, more than 3500 Pennsylvanians lost their lives to drug overdoses.
- Each day, at least 10 Pennsylvanians die of opioid or heroin overdose.
- The problem can largely be attributed to the rapid rise in the abuse of opioids, including both prescription pain relievers and heroin.
*National statistics are from www.cdc.gov and state statistics are from www.health.pa.gov
- 2015: 72
- 2016: 106
- 2017: 97
Do You Need Help Finding Resources for Yourself or a Loved One?
- Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission: (724) 223-1181
- Centers of Excellence: 1-888-810-8595
- Breanne Bowman: Project Coordinator, Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission, Inc.
- Breanne became a member of the Naloxone Subcommittee as a result of her role at the Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission where is responsible for distributing Naloxone (Narcan) kits to various first responders throughout Washington County.
- Ryan Frazee: Emergency Planner, Washington County Department of Public Safety
- Rodney Roher: Operations Manager, Washington Ambulance & Chair Service
- Rodney became a member of the Naloxone Subcommittee to save lives through the distribution of Narcan and to promote awareness.
- Erich Curnow: Director of Clinical and Case Management Services, Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission
- Erich is Co-Chair of the Coordination Subcommittee because the vision the coalition is meaningful to him and he believes coordination is the most important battlefront of the opioid epidemic.
- Judge John DiSalle: Judge
- Judge DiSalle is Co-Chair of the Coordination Subcommittee because he believes the coalition is an important medium for the criminal justice system to integrate with the community, including with health care providers, drug and alcohol treatment providers, police, first responders and other stakeholders to address the opioid crisis holistically.
- Brian Gorman: Executive Director, Southwestern Pennsylvania Legal Services
- Brian is a member of the Coordination Committee so that legal aid can help facilitate coordination between the court system and law enforcement, and to let the various stakeholders involved with the coalition know that there is support for people in recovery with family, housing, economic, legal needs.
- Ashley Skrobacs: Forensic Therapist, WCCF
- Ashley is a member of the Coordination Subcommittee to continue collaborations with law enforcement, legal, and treatment systems.
- Attorney Stephanie Sewak: Attorney and Former President of the Washington County Bar Assoc. 2017
- Stephanie is part of the Coordination Subcommittee to utilize her legal experience and connections to support the goal of eradicating the opioid crisis.
- Captain Joseph D. Ruggery: Commanding Officer, Troop B Washington
- Lieutenant Dale J. Brown: Criminal Investigation Section Commander, Troop B Washington
- Sergeant Jeremy M. Barni: Criminal Investigation Section Supervisor, Troop B Washington
- Brian Gorman: Executive Director, Southwestern PA Legal Aid
- Jodi Axe: Clinical Director of Allied Addiction Recovery, LLC.
- Jodi joined the coalition to take an active part in the community and to collaborate with others to remove barriers for individuals seeking treatment. Jodi is also co-chair of the Treatment Subcommittee.
- Matt Tutay: Clinical Director, SPHS
- Matt is co-chair of the Treatment Subcommittee and joined this subcommittee because of its potential to have a direct impact on social services.
- Teresa Babyak: Director of Operations, Washington Physicians Group
- Teresa is on the Treatment Subcommittee because the opioid epidemic has affected all of the medical practices she has worked with and she wants to be involved in helping to mitigate this problem especially for pregnant patients.
- Christine J D’Amico: Nurse Manager, Washington OB/GYN Care
- Christine joined the committee to help pregnant women with addiction in the community and to assist with early identification and treatment to reduce the number of NAS infants born in the community.
- Cheryld Emala: Certified Trauma Specialist Executive of Innovation and Strategic Alignment, SPHS
- Cheryl has worked in the behavioral health and substance abuse field for over 15 years and oversees the Center of Excellence for Opioid Use Disorders in Washington and Mon Valley locations.
- Jennifer Campbell, Program Manager, Washington Health System Center for Mental Health and Wellbeing Inpatient and Outpatient Services
- Jennifer joined the Treatment Subcommittee to partner with community groups, families, and other task forces who want to who want to save lives and help individuals who struggle with addiction.
- Rachel Lee-Price, LSW: Manager, Clinical Services VBH-PA/Beacon Health Options
- Rachel is on the Treatment Subcommittee because partnering with providers, counties, and community members is essential to Beacon’s mission to help people live their lives to their fullest potential.
- Susan Battista: Account Executive, Beacon Health Options
Education and Publicity Subcommittee
- Lori Spina: CEO, Southwest Medical Center
- Lori is Co-Chair of the Education and Publicity Subcommittee because she has been working in opioid education in Washington County Schools since 2013.
- Dr. Edmund Sulkowski DMD
- Dr. Sulkowski is Co-Chair of the Education and Publicity Subcommittee because he aims to help public and professional awareness of this issue.
- Julie Ference: Director of Emergency Services, Canonsburg Hospital
- Julie is on the Education and Publicity Subcommittee because she believes the fight against the opioid epidemic needs to have people who work on the front lines involved in not only the coalition but in their communities. Her role on the subcommittee also allows her to educate the staff she works with in the Emergency Department to be better prepared and have better understanding of the disease and its complexities.
- Bruce C. Sharpnack: Private Practice, Family Physician, Preferred Primary Care Physicians, Hickory Division
- Dr. Sharpnack became a member to network with people concerned about the opioid epidemic.
- Christine Damico, RN, MSN, NP: Nurse Manager, Washington OB/GYN Care
- Christine is on the the Education and Publicity Subcommittee because she is motivated to provide pregnant women the needed services to have a healthy lifestyle.
- Tammy Taylor: Prevention Supervisor, Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission
- Tammy is on the Anti-Stigma Subcommittee because she believes that addiction cannot be addressed without addressing the stigma that is associated with it.
- Joanna Dragan: Supervisor of Sexual Violence Services, CARE Center STTARS Program
- Joanna is on the Anti-Stigma Subcommittee because it felt like a way her team could be part of the solution by creating safe spaces for individuals to come forward and get help.
- Shenna Pape: Certified Recovery Specialist
- Shenna is in longterm recovery and faces stigma on a daily basis. Shenna contributes to this subcommittee in order to put a face to addiction.
- Michelle McIntyre, RN: Assistant Manager of Emergency Services Washington Health System
- Michelle is on the Anti-Stigma Subcommittee because as a nurse she sees people with drug and alcohol issues on a daily basis. Michelle believes that as a member of the medical community, there is an obligation to make a difference.
- Reverend Robert Hedges: Executive Director, Resurrection Power
- Rev. Hedges is a member of the Anti-Stigma Subcommittee in order to represent the faith-based community. Resurrection Power does ministry work within the recovery community.
- Joseph Kerley: Certified Recovery Specialist Supervisor