Centre County commissioners look ahead to ‘National Recovery Month’

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS The Centre County commissioners recently proclaimed Saturday, Aug. 31 as Overdose Awareness Day and September as National Recovery Month. From left are Commissioner Mark Higgins, Commissioner Michael Pipe, Centre County Director of Criminal Justice Planning Karri Hull, Executive Secretary Jessica Herren and Commissioner Steve Dershem.

BELLEFONTE — When it comes to raising awareness to overdoses and recovery, Centre County is doing its part.

On Tuesday, the Centre County commissioners adopted Proclamation No. 22 of 2019. It proclaimed Saturday, Aug. 31 as Overdose Awareness Day. Additionally, they proclaimed September as National Recovery Month.

Karri Hull, the county’s Director of Criminal Justice Planning, handed out purple ribbons and talked about the special events Centre County has planned for Aug. 31 and the month of September.

Hull talked about the significance of ribbons.

“We place these ribbons to honor the lives lost to overdose, to spread awareness of substance abuse disorders and to spread the message that treatment is effective and recovery is possible,” Hull said.

Hull said that nearly 250 lapel ribbons have been distributed throughout the community.

At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29, a special candlelight remembrance service will be held on the steps of the Centre County courthouse. It will honor those who lost their lives due to overdose.

“We welcome family and friends to share stories and memories of the loved ones that they have lost,” Hull said.

According to Hull, since 2015, there have been 17,899 overdose deaths in Pennsylvania — 69 of those in Centre County. Statistics show that one in four families in the Commonwealth will be impacted by addiction.

Hull talked about the HOPE initiative in Centre County. HOPE stands for Heroin, Opioid, Prevention and Education. Commissioner Steve Dershem chairs the HOPE initiative in the county.

“I think we have a lot of efforts going from Penn State University through the community, all the way down to the faith-based community as well, making a difference in particular in the recovery end of things. We are seeing some success with the numbers of overdose deaths this year. I think maybe the message is getting out,” Dershem said.

Dershem knows, however, that there is a long road ahead.

“We have a long way to go. We have some tough paddling ahead to get our community’s arms around this issue, but I think we are making some great strides,” Dershem said. “I’m very proud of the folks who are out on the front lines making a difference.”

Commissioner Mark Higgins said that he likes what he sees in the county, but agrees there is a long way to go.

“We’re doing well so far, especially when you compare Centre County to some of the surrounding counties,” Higgins said. “It’s taking a lot of effort, but we’ve got to keep pushing at this, we’ve got to keep working because I’m sure that as soon as we let up, things could get worse.”

Commissioner Michael Pipe said that Centre County’s Drug Court can help aid in the recovery process.

“So far this year, we’ve had two individuals graduate from the drug court,” Pipe said. “It’s an awesome testament to recovery.”