Local leaders are calling it a crisis only further exasperated by the pandemic. They’re now using a new opioid overdose dashboard to shed light on the question “how can we help people struggling with opioid addiction?” KDKA's Meghan Schiller reports.
LAURA DROGOWSKI: If we had an answer-- if we knew what to do-- I know that at every level of leadership, we would have done it.
LANCE RHOADES: Was something like naloxone used? How was it used? Who used it? How can we get more naloxone into those communities?
- It's being called a crisis, only made worse by the pandemic. How can we help people struggling with opioid addiction?
STACY SMITH: Megan Schiller talked with a Brookline pastor about why his church now doubles as an addiction treatment resource. It's new at 6:30.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: They are easily recognized as the church in Brookline with the big, red doors. But now members of that church are praying over this spot, "The Cannon" here along Brookline Boulevard. It's a known spot for drug deals, but now a chance for these church members to make a dent in the opioid crisis.
Along with the pews and the stained glass sit boxes of naloxone.
LANCE RHOADES: Clean your fingers and just press the little dispenser at the bottom.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: Senior Pastor Lance Rhoades is versed in scripture and known to take lifesaving action using this opioid reversal.
LANCE RHOADES: I had no personal lived experience with recovery and no professional experience with it. So I said, I've got to figure out how we can help people.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: He's turned this sanctuary into a safe space for people in recovery, leading Allegheny County's only approved coalition for reducing opioid overdoses.
LANCE RHOADES: There's no community in Pittsburgh that is exempt from this. Unfortunately, people who struggle with substance use disorders used to be identified to certain racial or social demographics, but that's no longer true.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: This is a look at that new opioid overdose dashboard. It tracks both overdose deaths and people who lived. It overlays EMS data on a map of Allegheny County, answering questions like, did the person call 911? Or, did someone give naloxone? Information we often never learn.
LAURA DROGOWSKI: So we want to be able to help people to understand-- are people dying alone, or know what is the context of an overdose-- not just what are numbers because. These are human beings, so what is that experience?
MEGHAN SCHILLER: Laura Drogowski with the city tells me Public Safety used to report data yearly, and this dashboard puts the data at our fingertips now.
LAURA DROGOWSKI: We couldn't wait another year to understand what was happening now. We are trying to get that out. We have reports that we're sending out to community partners with varying degrees of information depending on their levels of expertise.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: Community partners like Pastor Rhoades.
LANCE RHOADES: I think we have in the capacity of our city to be able to be loving and compassionate toward people that are going through an incredibly hard thing. And a lot of people just don't understand it, and as we understand the problem, we'll be able to understand and be part of the solution.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: Pastor Rhoades encourages everyone to go look at that dashboard. He says you definitely will learn something. We have a link to the dashboard at KDKA.com.
Reporting in Brookline, Meghan Schiller, KDKA News.