W.Pa. to observe International Overdose Awareness Day |

W.Pa. to observe International Overdose Awareness Day

Jason Cato

The bell atop Trinity Cathedral, Downtown, will ring 31 times Monday — once for every 10 people in Allegheny County who died last year from drugs.

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh will host a prayer service at noon as part of International Overdose Awareness Day.

Nearly 1,400 people died in the county during the past five years from drug overdoses. This year’s death toll stands at 140 so far, mostly from heroin and other opiates.

“The problems relating to addiction and overdoses extend well beyond legal issues and medical emergencies. They involve personal, family and community struggles that the local religious and faith communities face every day,” said Andrew Muhl, a spokesman for CLEAR, or the Coalition for Leadership, Education and Advocacy for Recovery, a group working to fight addiction across the region.

“This event is intended to help eliminate stigma and open healthy conversation about this growing crisis,” he said.

International Overdose Awareness Day began in Australia in 2001. It is observied each Aug. 31.

The global event draws attention to drug-related deaths, remembers lives lost to overdoses and champions better treatment and recovery options.

In addition to the prayer service at Trinity Cathedral, FED UP! will hold a rally in Market Square from 4 to 8 p.m. with speakers, advocacy and community groups, and information on recovery.

A report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July found that deaths from heroin-related overdoses increased 286 percent from 2002 to 2013. Drug overdoses kill more Americans annually than vehicle crashes, according to the CDC.

The same holds true in Pennsylvania, according to the state Health Department.

In 2012, 1,321 people died from motor vehicle crashes in the state, compared with 2,026 fatal drug overdoses.

Allegheny County had 303 overdose deaths in 2014, according to the state coroners association. Only Philadelphia had more, with 611.

Westmoreland County had 87 overdose deaths; Washington and Butler counties each logged 33, according to the coroners group.

Jason Cato is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7936 or [email protected].

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