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The State of the Opioid Crisis in Western Pennsylvania

by Katrina Gluch

Opioids have been a growing issue across Westmoreland County. Throughout the past few years, the opioid crisis has received more and more attention. Statistics from data.pa.gov indicate that Westmoreland County has been hit hard by the opioid crisis.  

In 2018, there were 122 overdose related deaths. Hempfield township had the most deaths, followed by Latrobe.  

So far in 2019, there have been 83 confirmed overdose related deaths. Hempfield so far has suffered 8 overdose deaths, making it the third-highest area in the county.  

Per every 100,00 residents in Westmoreland County, 74.5 are hospitalized yearly for drug-related overdoses.  

In the past few years, the rate that opioids have been prescribed in Pennsylvania has lowered. In 2019, there have been 1.7 million prescribed opioid painkillers, compared to 2.5 million in 2016. So far in 2019, there have been 63,179 opioid prescriptions.  

Also in 2019, there have been 49 drug seizures in Westmoreland County. Of these seizures, 54% have been fentanyl (2.289 kg) and 46% have been heroin (1.96 kg).  

Westmoreland County also has a high rate of infants who are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.  

In 2017, 34 out of every 1,000 births resulted in an infant being treated for one of these syndromes. Westmoreland County has a relatively high statistic compared to other parts of Pennsylvania. 

Even though Westmoreland County is among the highest in the state in terms of overdose deaths and drug addictions, the county is among the lowest in the state in terms of children being removed from a household due to drug addiction in the household.  

The ratio of removals from a household to the total number of children in the county is 0.61, compared to 1.25 in Allegheny County, where data regarding drug abuse and addiction is comparable.   

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