SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)- Pennsylvania is facing an addiction crisis, according to the State’s top official who oversees Drug and Alcohol Programs in the Commonwealth.
State and local officials brainstormed in Scranton Friday to explore possible solutions to the problem.
The numbers tell a frightening story, in 2020 in Lackawanna County 80 people died as a result of drug overdoses. In 2021 that number increased to 113, and county officials say they expect to see that number spike this year.
The question they tackled today, is what more can be done to prevent any more deaths?
Jen Smith, Secretary PA Dept. of Drug and Alcohol Programs, says “Yeah, we certainly did see the number of overdose deaths increase during COVID and really continuing to increase, unfortunately.”
Jen Smith oversees Drug and Alcohol programs across the commonwealth, she is traveling the state to talk with the people on the front lines of the addiction crisis. On Friday she met with officials from drug counseling, law enforcement, First Responders, healthcare and the courts. Many here are members of a group called the Lackawanna Recovery Coalition.
“What we are here today is to talk about us what’s really been working well and what did we learn during Covid in terms of what gaps still exist. Where do we need to bolster service? Where do we need to add additional resources to really help people get connected to the care that they need.” said Smith.
A special drug court has been in operation for some time now, the mission is treatment when possible for those dealing with addiction.
Lackawanna County Judge Michael Barrasse says “ The reality is for drug offenses, especially for those that are addicted we have to change the mentality say what can be done to change their behavior, to change their behavior we have to talk about treatment. effective treatment.”
All those in attendance at the meeting agree funding is needed to help ramp up drug addiction services.
Representative Bridget Kosierowski was also in attendance of the meeting.
“At the state level the best thing we can do make resources available and funding available. I serve on the Opioid Task Force here in Pennsylvania, the numbers are staggering. The access to fentanyl and heroin is staggering, dangerous stuff. The death rate is high.” said Kosierowski.