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Allegheny County Health Department gets $350K grant to combat opioid crisis |

Allegheny County Health Department gets $350K grant to combat opioid crisis

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The Hillman Foundation has given a $350,000 grant to the Allegheny County Health Department to help fund the department’s outreach in communities affected by the opioid crisis.

The funds will be used to conduct in-depth interviews to help come up with intervention strategies, and some will be given out as mini grants, a county news release said.

According to county data, there were 670 overdose deaths last year from opioids and fentanyl, up from 598 in 2016 and 390 in 2015.

The crisis has affected some communities in the county disproportionately, the release said.

According to county data , Wilmerding, Pitcairn, McKees Rocks, Braddock Hills, Mount Oliver and Rankin have high rates of overdose deaths for their population sizes.

The department will work with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh led by Dr. Judy Chang, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, the release said.

The team will interview community stakeholders, first responders, service providers, intravenous drug users, those in recovery and those whose family members have died from an overdose, the release said.

The county’s overdose death rate is increasing faster than any other cause of death, according to a 2015 mortality report the department published in January.

In 2016, 93 percent of overdose deaths in the county were opioid-related. It was the third consecutive year in which the number of fatal overdoses was higher than in any prior year.

“The opioid overdose epidemic has had a devastating effect on residents and communities in Allegheny County,” Health Department Director Dr. Karen Hacker said in the release. “We are very grateful to the Henry L. Hillman Foundation for providing us with this funding, which will allow us to get a more-detailed understanding of how this public health crisis is impacting our local communities. This is just one more action step in our fight to address the opioid overdose epidemic, and we will continue to fight this head-on so that we can save as many lives as possible.”

The county will announce later this year where the mini grants will go.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669, or via Twitter @tclift.

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