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Hempfield, county task force to host drug forum

Jamie Martines
| Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017, 1:33 p.m.

Support and recovery are the themes of the Community Drug Forum to be hosted this month by the Hempfield Area School District and Westmoreland County Drug Overdose Task Force.

It is time to shift discussion of the county's opioid epidemic from problems to solutions, organizers say.

“We have to do something different,” said Tim Phillips, executive director of the overdose task force. “Town hall meetings are dime a dozen.”

It's already clear that there is a problem in the county, Phillips said.

There have been 96 confirmed overdose deaths in Westmoreland County this year, with another 55 suspected cases still pending, according to the county coroner's office. There were a record 174 overdose deaths in 2016.

The shame and guilt around addiction is often what keeps people from getting treatment, event organizers said. Jeffery Coover, director of student services at Hempfield Area School District, hopes the forum will provide people access to resources and information they need to help themselves or someone they know.

“I think, first and foremost, we want the event to promote more discussion about drug and alcohol addiction in the county,” Coover said.

The event will feature a screening of the documentary film “The Anonymous People, ” which focuses on people nationwide living in long-term recovery from alcohol or drug addiction and the value of building a supportive community focused on recovery. The film will be followed by a question-and-answer session with local experts, law enforcement and people in recovery.

Coover and other organizers believe that talking about addiction and bringing the community together is a step toward getting help to those who need it.

“Because it's a huge stigma, people don't want to get help,” said Tommy Bishop, member of the Hempfield Area School Board School Safety and Security Committee.

He hopes that holding the forum at the high school — a community hub — will encourage more people to attend and that the evening's focus on rehabilitation and treatment of addiction will set it apart from similar events.

Representatives from several organizations focused on education, prevention and recovery will be present.

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at jmartines@tribweb.com, 724-850-2867 or on Twitter @Jamie_Martines.

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