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During National Recovery Month, we must not forget the raging opioid crisis

York Dispatch editorial board
  • More than 5,200 overdose deaths were reported in Pennsylvania last year.
  • That's an increase of about 16% over 2019.
  • September is National Recovery Month.
RASE Project Chief Operating Officer Angel Fiore-Torres speaks with Rep. Carol Hill-Evans during a tour of the RASE Project's York recovery center

The overwhelming nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many of us mentally exhausted.

That’s completely understandable. It seems like there’s no end in sight to our national nightmare.

With the delta variant surge raging, more than 660,000 Americans have now died from the disease and more than 41 million have been infected.

Those staggering numbers are enough to depress even the most upbeat among us.

Those statistics can also suck the oxygen out of any other health-care conversations. Many of us simply don’t have the psychological energy to get concerned about other health-care issues.

We can’t afford to let that happen.

Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic must be our No. 1 health-care priority at the moment, but it can’t be our only priority.

We can’t forget: That’s why it’s so important that we don’t overlook other important health-care issues, such as the opioid crisis, which also continues to rage on.

We can’t afford to forget that thousands of Pennsylvanians die each year from overdoses.

In fact, preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows more than 5,200 overdose deaths were reported in Pennsylvania last year. That's an increase of about 16% over 2019.

More:A safe haven amid dramatic rise in overdose deaths

It’s likely that some of that increase is because of the overall depression caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary protocols that have been put in place to fight the pandemic. Those protocols have created a layer of isolation that can feed depression and can lead to increased opioid use.

The increase in overdose deaths “is a reminder to people in recovery and to those that support them that no one is alone in their recovery journey," said Jennifer Smith, the state's secretary of drug and alcohol programs.

Good work being done in York: Last week, Smith visited the York City branch of the Recovery Advocacy Service Empowerment Project, a nonprofit that assists those who are in recovery from substance abuse disorder.

"There is hope, and you can get there," said Angel Fiore-Torres, the organization's chief operating officer. "It's not always a straight path that gets us there, but we do get there."

It’s a program that is on the front lines of the fight against addiction. It’s a program that works. And it’s a program that we need to support.

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And it’s not the only program of its kind. Far from it. There are many others.

Offer your support: Find a program that best fits your life philosophy and do whatever you can to support it. The most important thing is to get involved.

That’s because there’s hardly a family in Pennsylvania that hasn’t been negatively impacted by the opioid crisis. It crosses all racial, religious and economic backgrounds.

No one is immune.

National Recovery Month: There’s an added reason to focus on the opioid crisis now.

September is National Recovery Month, which celebrates the lives of those living in recovery from substance abuse disorder through an evidence-based stigma reduction campaign.

For more information on what Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is doing for National Recovery Month, visit the department's website.

To find drug and alcohol treatment, call 1-800-622-HELP (4357). For more information on the RASE Project, visit the project's website. For the York/Adams Drug and Alcohol Commission, visit the county's website.

Please, take the time to check out those sites and see what you can do to help.