How one pharmacy school fights heroin overdoses

April 1, 2016

Pharmacists and pharmacy students will play a major role in the new Pennsylvania Heroin Overdose Prevention Technical Assistance Center at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy.

Janice PringlePharmacists and pharmacy students will play a major role in the new Pennsylvania Heroin Overdose Prevention Technical Assistance Center at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy.

The school recently formed the center to help prevent overdose deaths in Pennsylvania and, specifically, in Allegheny County. In 2014, there were 307 overdose deaths in Allegheny County, or 24.7 deaths per 100,000 people, according to Janice Pringle, PhD, associate professor of pharmacy and director of the pharmacy school’s Program Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU). Pennsylvania ranks eighth in the nation for overdose doses.

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“The center is needed to provide the state (and specifically the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency) with a resource to help communities learn how they can effectively reduce overdoses and overdose deaths,” Pringle said. “Reducing overdoses in Pennsylvania has been declared a top priority for [Governor Wolf] in focusing state activities, and this center will help coalesce all of the state activities toward this end.”

The center will provide training programs on addiction issues, screening patients for alcohol/drug use disorders, and intervening with patients so they can access substance use disorder (SUD) treatment. It will also provide education on naloxone use, and how to educate patients and their caregivers on how to use it, Pringle said.

 

“We will be encouraging communities to include pharmacists and pharmacies in their community coalitions. Pharmacy students are also involved in helping clean mortality data collected by medical examiners/coroners and in providing training to use naloxone in a suspected overdose,” she said.

The center received initial funding of almost $248,000 from the state. The center will also assist the state in developing overdose prevention funding initiatives.