Groups will offer opioid education workshops
Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services, the United Way of Wyoming Valley and Geisinger Northeast are teaming up for new initiative.
WILKES-BARRE — The average age that drug users start experimenting with drugs has dropped to 11 or 12, said Jason Harlen, CEO of Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services.
Harlen continues to see many people addicted to drugs, including opiates, heroin and prescription pain medications.
The growing regional opioid epidemic has spurred a new program and partnership to fund and deliver it.
Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services has partnered with the United Way of Wyoming Valley and Geisinger Northeast to offer free opioid prevention/education workshops to businesses and organizations throughout the area.
Harlen joined Bill Jones, president/CEO of the United Way of Wyoming Valley; and Ron Beer, chief administrative officer for Geisinger Northeast to announce the initiative at a press conference on Friday morning at the United Way office.
Staff from the Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services will conduct 60-90 minute workshops at businesses and organizations and will provide information about opioid addiction and its signs and symptoms as well as training about how to administer Narcan, medication that reverses the effects of a prescription opioid or heroin overdose, Harlen said.
Additionally, Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services will provide a free dose of the life-saving Narcan nasal spray to each business and organization that participates in the program, he said.
The United Way of Wyoming Valley will cover the cost of the opioid prevention workshops, including Narcan training with funding from a $30,000 grant provided by Geisinger Northeast.
“With the program that we are providing, it allows us to give some amazing education and knowledge to businesses and community organizations as far as the opioid epidemic is concerned,” Harlen said. “Every one of us knows somebody who is affected by a drug addiction, whether it be a family member, a friend or a fellow employee.”
Last year, a record total of 140 people died of drug overdoses in Luzerne County. So far this year, there have been 97 confirmed overdoses and five other suspected overdose deaths are pending toxicology results, according to Luzerne County Coroner’s office.
“The crisis has gripped our communities, our county, our state and our entire country,” Jones said.
When parents and other family members are addicted to drugs, Jones said kids are at risk.
Addiction undermines a parent’s ability to be employed, care for their own health and to think clearly about caring for their children. A high percentage of children enter the child welfare system as a result of influence of drugs and alcohol on their parents or primary caregivers, he said.
“There is no one single solution to this problem but there needs to be a series of solutions that can come together and work together to solve the crisis,” Jones said.
Providing a grant for the program is one of many initiatives Geisinger Health System has been pursuing to reduce opioid addiction.
A new outpatient clinic for people suffering from opioid addiction recently opened at Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre.
“Treatment and support falls well within the scope of what we do at Geisinger but we look for community partners for education and awareness,” Beer said. “We believe that by helping agencies such as the United Way, we can fundamentally change social determinants of health and we can permanently improve the health of our community.”
‘Every one of us knows somebody who is affected by a drug addiction, whether it be a family member, a friend or a fellow employee.’ JASON HARLEN Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services
Ron Beer of Geisinger Northeast discusses a new Initiative to combat the region’s opioid crisis. Seated from left are Jason Harlen of Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services and Bill Jones of the United Way of Wyoming Valley.