Institute of Politics

Opioid Overdose Epidemic

A regional response to a complex public health issue such as the opioid epidemic requires cooperation across varied disciplines and philosophies. The Institute’s initiative examines the partnership among University of Pittsburgh, UPMC, and three regional counties at the core of the opioid epidemic and argues how collectively they may establish unified strategic goals along a common “continuum of care” model to advance Southwestern Pennsylvania's response to the opioid epidemic. This strategy has been conceptualized in a report entitled, “A Continuum of Care Approach: Western Pennsylvania’s Response to the Opioid Epidemic.” Recognizing that the crisis is simultaneously one of public health and public safety, the report identifies gaps in existing protocols and programs. To address these gaps and build upon Western Pennsylvania’s existing successes in combating the epidemic, the report advances recommendations for public health and public safety organizations across the region. The report also includes a series of immediate to long-term goals that are designed to stem the tide of opioids/heroin in regional communities, educate and engage professionals and the public to reduce overdose deaths, and provide substance-use disorder patients with quality treatment options and pathways to full recovery.

Following the release of the report, the Institute in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh, School of Pharmacy’s Program Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU) hosted two community opioid forums in Indiana, Pa. and Erie, Pa.


Regional Programs

  • April 26, 2017 - Indiana, Pa. - Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex
  • May 31, 2017 - Erie, Pa. - Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel

Resource Information

News Coverage

  • Madeleine O’Neill, “Pa. attorney general talks opioid crisis at Erie symposium,” May 31, 2017 - Link

Pitt News

  • Maria Heines, “Among short-term fixes, Pitt develops long-term plan to combat nationwide opioid crisis,” May 31, 2017 - Link 
  • The Pitt News Editorial Board, “Opioid task force overlooks some addiction complexities,” October 6, 2016 - Link

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

  • Karen Langley, “State lawmakers looking at forced treatment as option to combat opioid crisis,” February 20, 2017 - Link 
  • Rich Lord, “Task force: Opioid crisis fixes include hard handoff,” October 6, 2016 - Link 
  • Rich Lord, “In southwestern Pennsylvania, joint approach to opioid epidemic emerging,” August 30, 2016 - Link

Observer Reporter (Washington County)

  • Barbara Miller, “Washington County drug overdose deaths could reach 100 this year,” December 21, 2016 - Link

Pittsburgh Business Times

  • Lydia Nuzum, “Report: Data collection, lack of beds hinder opioid abuse treatment,” October 5, 2017 - Link


  • Lisa Washington, “Advisory Group Close to Revealing Plan to Tackle Opioid & Heroin Epidemic,” August 30, 2016 - Link

NBC 10 (Philadelphia)

  • Joe Mandak, “Some Coroners Thwarting Drug Overdose Data Efforts: Feds,” October 5, 2016 - Link