Study finds community-led prevention approach reduces opioid overdose deaths in Pa. counties

‘We hope to see more funding targeted toward supporting communities on the ground in this way,’ a researcher said

By: - March 6, 2023 6:30 am

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A new study suggests that community-led prevention strategies were successful in reducing opioid overdose deaths in 29 counties across Pennsylvania. 

The research conducted by the University of Pittsburgh analyzed data on overdose deaths from 48 Pennsylvania counties from 2016-2019, found that the opioid overdose death rates in counties that implemented a community-led approach with the help of the Pennsylvania Overdose Reduction Technical Assistance Center (ORTAC), which provides support to counties fighting opioid use, was “consistently lower” than in other counties. 

Researchers found that a community-led approach, which includes community organizations and stakeholders in strategies to combat opioid use, prevented 1,818 opioid-related deaths over a two-year period. 

The 29 counties using a community-led prevention strategy saw a 67% reduction in opioid overdose deaths per 100,000 people. That figure was just 47% for the 19 counties not using this approach.

“The idea behind ORTAC is that community members and people on the front lines know what’s best for their community,” Renee Cloutier, research scientist in the Pitt School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmacy and Therapeutics said in a statement. “The ORTAC team worked to develop and activate community coalitions to clarify the problems in their community, generate plans and act on them.”

The study was funded by the Pennsylvania  Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD).

“If you fund communities and provide structured support, you can make transformational change beyond what might be possible with a top-down approach,” Cloutier said. “We hope to see more funding targeted toward supporting communities on the ground in this way.”

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