Advocates at Greensburg event call for more drug addiction treatment options
“Harm-reduction” advocates called for more treatment options for those addicted to drugs at a forum held at the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg on Saturday.
There are many problems contributing to the drug epidemic, said Devin Reaves, executive director of the Pennsylvania Harm Reduction Committee, based in Philadelphia.
Two of the biggest issues are the stigmatization of drug users and the over-regulation of treatment options, he said.
Reaves said his goal is to spread the word that drug users are not bad people, drug use is not a moral failing, and the correct solution to the drug problem is not imprisoning all drug users.
“We need to help get people who have problems with drugs into treatment,” he said.
That means legal needle exchanges that gives drug users access to clean needles to reduce the risk of diseases like HIV, and legal fentanyl test strips that gives users a way to check for the powerful, deadly drug that is often added to heroin.
Reaves and speaker Brooke Feldman also called for the acceptance of drug-assisted treatment options like methadone. Many rehab centers will not admit patients who use addiction management medication.
Addiction is still widely misunderstood, by legislators and the public at large, Feldman said.
“Many still believe it is a choice,” she said. “Many still believe it is bad people doing bad things.”
About 25 people attended the forum, including members of the Westmoreland County Drug Overdose Task Force, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and local advocacy group Sage’s Army.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .