Lancaster County is fighting an opioid and heroin overdose crisis – with nearly 100 deaths year-to-date. To better coordinate efforts to fight it, a new county-wide coalition kicked off earlier this month. The Joining Forces Coalition launched on August 3 after being endorsed by the Lancaster County Commissioners.

Last year there were 117 overdose deaths in Lancaster County involving heroin, prescription painkillers and fentanyl, a 40 percent increase from 2015 and a 100 percent increase from 2014.

“Lancaster Joining Forces has formed to coordinate efforts to combat this public health crisis. A multi-faceted approach to address this disease has been shown to be effective across the county. Several groups and organizations have been making great strides, and Joining Forces will assist them to fill in the gaps. We will be able to have a greater impact in a shorter period of time by joining forces,” said Alice Yoder, Director of Community Wellness at Lancaster General Health.

Examples of ways the coalition will help include: improvement in data collection and trending, saturate the community with unified messaging regarding the proper use, storage and disposal of prescription drugs as well as where to get help for substance misuse/abuse and mental health to name just a few. A website will be launched shortly with more information. Each member of the Joining Forces Steering committee has committed to do their part by expanding the current evidence-based work they are doing that will contribute to preventing deaths from opioids and heroin.

The coalition will focus on evidenced-based methods outlined by the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) and successes found in such states as New York, Oregon, Tennessee and Florida.

The member groups, representing health care, law enforcement, treatment and awareness efforts, include:

Attend the upcoming quarterly community event on Friday, November 3 from 7:30 to 11 a.m. For more information, or to RSVP, contact Susan Trace at strace2@lghealth.org.

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