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National Recovery Month highlights substance abuse during pandemic, as opioid disaster declaration ends in Pennsylvania | FOX43 Capitol Beat

Jennifer Smith, Secretary of the Pa. Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs spoke to Matt Maisel about the spike in substance-related deaths during the pandemic.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — National Recovery Month begins in Pennsylvania during one of the most difficult stretches the Commonwealth has experienced in years.

The annual celebration is meant to highlight those who have recovered from substance abuse, and to highlight the resources available for people who are fighting to reach sobriety. 

Pennsylvania had made significant progress in addressing the opioid epidemic in the last three years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has set efforts back.

"It wreaked havoc on the substance use disorder community," Jennifer Smith, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) said. 

Pennsylvania saw 5,217 overdose deaths from 2020 through July 2021, according to data provided by DDAP. It's a sharp increase from 4,458 deaths in 2019, and 4,422 in 2018.

Pennsylvania experienced 5,397 overdose deaths in 2018, when Governor Tom Wolf signed the opioid disaster declaration. It was resigned by the governor 15 times before the legislature allowed it to expire in August.

National Recovery Month will include events across South Central Pennsylvania for survivors to be together and support each other through their sobriety fight. 

"It's so important to raise awareness about the disease itself and address the stigma across communities," Smith said. "The more we can normalize addiction and substance use disorder, the more it is going to help individuals and families reach out to seek the help they need."

Those events include:

  • Sept. 5: Recovery Day at People’s Bank Park, York
  • Sept. 8: DDAP kickoff event with The RASE Project, York (rescheduled from Sept. 1)
  • Sept. 11: Recovery Day Lancaster, Buchanan Park
  • Sept. 18: The RASE Project 9th Annual Comedy Show, Harrisburg

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