The 20th Annual Elected Officials Retreat dug deeper into the topics and themes brought up during the 2015 Retreat: suburban poverty, criminal justice reform, and the opioid/heroin epidemic.
The 2016 Retreat was the initial release of the Institute’s Poverty: Beyond the Urban Core policy brief, a publication that came from the work of a special advisory committee that the Institute formed in the summer of 2015. That advisory committee was fortunate enough to be led by two of our region’s leaders at the state level, House Majority Leader Dave Reed and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Dan Frankel. The committee cochairs discussed with Mark Nootbarr of WESA about the findings and recommendations of the report.
Mark Nordenberg, Chair of the Institute, and Fred Thieman, Henry Buhl Jr. Chair for Civic Leadership at the Buhl Foundation, provided an update on the work of the Criminal Justice Task Force. The task force, convened in fall 2015, completed their in-depth investigation of the county’s criminal justice system, an investigation that included research into national best practices and trends in the criminal justice system. Retreat attendees received information on the task forces findings and recommendations, and its next steps.
Lastly, beginning on Thursday evening and continuing into Friday, the Retreat focused on the opioid/heroin epidemic that devastated not only our region, but also the nation. In 2017, the Institute partnered with a variety of entities in Southwestern Pennsylvania, all working toward the same goal of eliminating opioid overdoses and creating a robust continuum of care for individuals suffering from the disease of substance addiction. Many of these partners, including U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, David Hickton, and representatives from the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Allegheny County Health Department, Allegheny County Department of Human Services, and the single county authorities discussed the efforts that they made to combat this epidemic.
Because this particular topic is so personal, Melissa Weiksnar, a writer, teacher, advocate, and author of Heroin’s Puppet: The Rehab Journals of Amelia F.W. Caruso (1989-2009) addressed participants on Friday morning about the heartbreaking true story of her daughter who engaged in a six-year battle with heroin addiction before finally succumbing to the disease in 2009.
Coleman Award Winners
Please note that the titles and organizations listed reflect the position held by the awardee when he/she received the award.
- Linda Lane, Former Superintendent, Pittsburgh Public Schools
- Bill Strickland, President & CEO, Manchester Bidwell Corporation