PA counties, including Lebanon, compete for addiction-treatment grants

Written by John Latimer, Lebanon Daily News | May 30, 2015 10:00 AM
bag of drugs 600x340 LD news.jpg

Photo by Lebanon Daily News

The Lebanon County District Attorney showed these drugs at a news conference on May 20. The drugs were confisciated when local police and the Lebanon County Drug Task Force busted a heroin-processing mill in a garage on Lebanon's northside.

(Lebanon) -- With the use of heroin reaching epidemic levels, counties statewide are applying for funding to help battle addiction in a program included in Gov. Tom Wolf's budget.

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs announced this week that drug-treatment agencies representing 62 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties have applied for the competitive grants to be distributed from a $5 million fund proposed by Wolf. The money must still be approved by the state Legislature if it is to be included in the 2015-16 budget.

The interest in the grants is reflective of the widespread and rising use of heroin, and years of federal and state funding cuts for residential treatment programs, according to the head of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

"The fact that we received a request from 62 counties confirms the critical need for these intensive treatment services across the state," Secretary Gary Tennis said in a news release. "We are pleased with the overwhelming response from our county drug and alcohol directors to seek these resources to help fellow Pennsylvanians with drug and alcohol addiction."

Because long-term residential treatment programs have been the most affected by the funding cuts, 80 percent of the grant money will be awarded to intensive treatment programs providing counseling and supportive medication expenses, Tennis said. The remainder will go toward programs emphasizing outreach, education and preventative programs.

When delivering his annual report at last week's county commissioners' meeting, Jim Donmoyer, executive director of the Lebanon County Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, announced he had applied for a $273,000 grant to establish a program in partnership with Pennsylvania Counseling Services that would provide support to addicts and their families.

Donmoyer said he was not surprised that an overwhelming number of county drug and alcohol agencies, known as Single County Authorities, applied for grants from the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

"No one was forcing you to apply, but when DDAP, which oversees all the SCAs, when they are pushing there is a heroin epidemic and asking what are we going to about it, and then they say we have $5 million for treatment programs, it's no surprise everybody did," he said. "This is a statewide problem."

The problem may be growing worse in Lebanon County. Despite the recent arrest of a heroin ring responsible for distributing $2.5 million worth of heroin in the last year, there have been three overdose deaths in May, bringing the yearly total to five, Donmoyer said.

Two of the deaths occurred this week and can be attributed to a certain type of heroin responsible for a number of recent overdoses. Pennsylvania State Police on Monday issued a warning about the heroin, which is packaged in unmarked dark blue packets.

Despite the competition for grant money, Donmoyer said he is hopeful that his proposal will be chosen for funding by DDAP.

It is a new program, as specified by the grant requirements, and would provide support to both the addict and family members as they work together to break free from addiction, Donmoyer said. He noted that last year, just 17 people were referred to his agency by their families and he's hoping the program would motivate more to seek help for their relatives.

"If you look at AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous), people don't get clean alone," Donmoyer said. "At AA and NA, they believe in fellowship and sponsorship and attending meetings, if you need help. It is easy to do drugs by yourself, but if you're going to get clean, you will need help. And the people that love and support addicts are also going through it, and may be enabling them. So it's important to educate the family and provide them with information and support."

This article comes to us through a partnership between Lebanon Daily News and WITF. 

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