STROUDSBURG | On Aug 31, 2022, Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) Secretary Jennifer Smith joined several Pocono-area community leaders to kick off the start of Overdose Awareness Month by remembering the lives lost to drug overdoses. The event was held on Wednesday evening at the Wesleyan Church in Stroudsburg. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there were 5,331 drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2021, making it the deadliest year since 2017, when there were 5,403 overdose deaths. WATCH VIDEO.
“I’m here this evening to honor individuals in this county who were lost to a drug overdose,” said Secretary Smith. “It’s a really great opportunity to really meet with people who have experienced that sort of grief, to hear stories about their loved ones, and at the same time, really spread messages of hope that can come with recovery and people who are able to see treatment for substance abuse disorder.
“From a state level, we have a Get Help Now hotline,” said Secretary Smith. “It’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every single day of the year. And it’s staffed with folks who are able to connect you with resources, as well as connect you to crisis services, or to get you to treatment regardless of insurance status. So if money is a challenge for you and you don’t have insurance, that should not be a barrier to seeking help.”
“These addiction issues permeate every single community. It doesn’t discriminate based on age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status. It really is everywhere, and all you have to do is ask for help,” said Secretary Smith. “All you have to do is ask for help. There are people ready and waiting to assist you, and to listen, and to help you through whatever challenges you might have in getting access to the resources that you need.”
“Over the years, myself personally, and our different businesses have helped individuals out, getting the help that they need,” said local businessman Steve Ertle. “It’s very important to bring them back into the work force, and give them that support when they come back healthy and ready to go. It’s all about support and that’s why I’m here tonight- to give that support back to the community.”
“I mainly came out because I lost a loved one when she was 19 years old, 22 years ago,” said Stroud Township Supervisor Jennifer Shukaitis. “And so, I wanted to be part of the community, in not only healing with each other but in seeing what opportunities that we have moving forward where we can make a better future and try to get at the root of the problem together. So we don’t have this perpetual cycle of abuse,” Shukaitis continued. “We need to come together and focus on love and caring for one another and looking for solutions for making our community a better place.”
I have had family that has had struggles, gone through a lot. Even with all the resources around you, it’s a very very difficult time for families and for the individual to get full recovery,” said 189th District Representative Rosemary Brown. “And so, when we have these types of events today, that are remembrances and they’re about overdose education and prevention, it’s really important that families that have unfortunately dealt with this tragedy of a death, that they share some of that information with others. They can help others by doing that, which is really important.”
Whether you or someone you know struggles with addiction, it’s important to remember that there is help available and that you are not alone. The Get Help Now hotline operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1-800-662-HELP.
View the Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol treatment resource map here.
Download the ATLAS Drug Treatment App here.