Since 2016, the Overdose Reduction Technical Assistance Center (ORTAC) has helped Pennsylvania (PA) communities find ways to reduce or eliminate the impact of opioid use, overdoses, and overdose deaths. The project was designed to take a cooperative, solutions-oriented, public health approach to overdose prevention. It empowered and supported PA residents in building sustainable coalitions and partnering with law enforcement, healthcare providers, and community organizations focused on overdose prevention, harm reduction, evidence-based treatment, and recovery.
As of March 2023, ORTAC has worked in 38 counties and with 36 coalitions across PA, including two statewide coalitions. From 2017-2019, the impact of these collaborations resulted in a 30% reduction in the overdose death rate per 100,000 people. Ensuring local public officials, business owners, and the general public were involved contributed to the project’s success. Many harm reduction efforts happened due to community interest and led to more overdoses avoided and more lives saved.
ORTAC worked in communities to coordinate treatment for individuals with substance use disorder (SUD), raise awareness of recovery programs, educate community members about SUD, distribute naloxone (an opioid overdose reversal drug), collect and destroy unused medications, and reduce community stigma toward SUD and treatment. This also includes working with judges and law enforcement to divert individuals to treatment instead of incarceration and creating www.overdosefreepa.org, a source for overdose data and harm reduction resources in PA. Because of the demonstrated impact, ORTAC’s approach to reducing opioid overdose deaths through early intervention, prevention, collaboration, and data sharing has become a model for other states.