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Centre County Puts Spotlight on Addiction, Recovery

by and on August 25, 2019 5:00 AM

Looking to continue to raise awareness about drug addiction and help those who need treatment, Centre County proclaimed Aug. 31 as Overdose Awareness Day and September as National Recovery Month.

“Since 2015 in Pennsylvania alone 17,899 individuals have lost their lives because of the result of drug overdoses, with 69 of those here in Centre County,” Centre County Director of Criminal Justice Planning Karri Hull said as she presented the events to county commissioners at the Aug. 20 board meeting. “Overdose deaths shatter family, friends and their communities. At least one in four families in Pennsylvania has been impacted by the chronic disease of addiction.

"We must encourage relatives and friends of people with substance abuse disorders to implement preventive measures, recognize the signs of the problem and guide those in need to appropriate treatment in recovery and support services. It is estimated there are nearly 23 million adults living in long-term recovery, during a time when overdose deaths are staggering, the HOPE Initiative wants to remind everybody that prevention works, treatment is affective and recovery is possible.”

The county and the Centre County HOPE Initiative will place purple ribbons in various areas of the local communities in the county attached with the upcoming events.

“We place these ribbons to honor the lives lost to overdose, to spread awareness of substance abuse disorders and to spread the message that treatment is affective and recovery is possible,” Hull said.

The events will begin on Thursday, Aug. 29, as the county will hold a candlelight remembrance ceremony on the steps of the courthouse at 6:30 p.m. to honor loved ones lost to overdose.

“We encourage and welcome family and friends to share stories of their loved ones that they have lost," Hull said. "That evening will also mark the lighting of the courthouse in purple like we did last year. It will remain illuminated throughout the month of September [and] Bellefonte Borough has agreed to light Talleyrand Park as well.”

New this year, the HOPE Initiative will be celebrating Recovery With Art, an art display which showcase original artwork by those with substance abuse disorders. Artwork for submission is due to the county Drug and Alcohol Office by Sept. 18. The work will be displayed at the Nittany Mall Sept. 23 to 30.

“I think we have a lot of efforts going from Penn State University down to the community and in the faith-based church community making a difference particularly in the recovery end of things,” said commissioner Steven Dershem, who chairs the HOPE Initiative. “And we are seeing some, knock on wood, success in the number of overdose deaths this year, and I don’t know if the data is still accurate at two this year, when it was in the teens and 20s.

"So I think maybe the message is getting out. But unfortunately, the scourge of heroin and opiates is being replaced, regrettably, by methamphetamine. So we have a long way to go. We have some tough paddling ahead to get our community’s arms around these issues, but I think we are making some great strides.”

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Vincent Corso is writer for Town&Gown and the Centre County Gazette.
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