Allegheny County Health Department and international fraternity to host opioid discussion at Penn Hills Library |

Allegheny County Health Department and international fraternity to host opioid discussion at Penn Hills Library

Michael DiVittorio

Allegheny County Health Department officials partnered with Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity to offer a community conversation on opioids, treatment and overdose prevention.

The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Penn Hills Library, 1037 Stotler Road.

The program includes a slideshow presentation with an overview of what opioids and fentanyl are, overdose data and other related statistics, and how to recognize and respond to an overdose.

Recovering addicts will share their stories. Narcan and training on how to administer the medicine will be available as well.

“Such community conversations are important because certain communities in Allegheny County are disproportionately affected by opioid overdoses, and it is critical to educate residents at the neighborhood-level about this reality,” said Roderick Harris, health department deputy director. “Furthermore, by supplying residents with Narcan, we will have more friends, families, and neighbors equipped to help save lives in the event that they encounter someone overdosing.”

Harris said for the 45-60 age range, black men are the leading demographic for opioid overdoses in the county

“This statistic is one of many that motivated the fraternity to get involved in tackling the crisis,” he said.

Phi Beta Sigma is a historically black international fraternity already in partnership with Penn Hills School District to bring free educational programs to its schools.

Fraternity Brother Melvin Blanks said similar events took place in Homewood, Wilkinsburg, McKeesport and the West End earlier this year.

“We try to help our community and make a difference in any way we can,” Blanks said. “Opioids affect more than the person using the drug. It affects family members and people in the community as well. We wanted to educate the youth because it may not be them overdoing, but someone they love. We want them to know how to use something that’s available that might save a life.”

Blanks also noted opioids are not a new problem in Western Pennsylvania.

“Media-wise, we have an opioid epidemic across America,” he said. “There’s been an opioid epidemic my whole life growing up (in Homewood). Some of the inner city communities allowed me to get a grassroots (effort) to go on at some of the locations and more drug-infested areas with a level of comfortability to distribute the Narcan. We get a decent amount of people (at these events). In Homewood, we barely had standing room.”

The fraternity received a grant from the health department to train 13 volunteers to do community outreach, Narcan distributions and community conversations.

No registration is required for the Thursday event. Email [email protected] for more information.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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