2018-09-13 / Local & State News
PITTSTON, Pa. (PRNewswire) — In one of the states hit hardest by the opioid crisis, public media is bringing people together to fight back.
Seven public media stations from across Pennsylvania — WHYY (Philadelphia), WITF (Harrisburg), WLVT/PBS39 (Greater Lehigh Valley), WPSU (State College), WQED (Pittsburgh), WQLN (Northwestern Pennsylvania) and WVIA (Northeastern Pennsylvania) — have banded together for “Battling Opioids,” a project to create and share programming, convene community conversations about the opioid crisis, and direct people to state and local resources and information on where to get help.
“Battling Opioids, A Project of Pennsylvania Public Media” will air at 8 p.m. Sept. 27, across the networks, and will feature a 60-minute documentary to which all stations contributed. It will be followed by a live panel discussion. The program is hosted by award-winning journalist Paola Giangiacomo, host of WVIA’s television series “Call the Doctor.”
Stations are convening related watch events and community conversations across the state this month, including a program for legislators in Harrisburg on Sept 25.
“Our stations’ demographics across the state may differ, but the opioid crisis affects all of us,” said Kathleen Pavelko, president and CEO of WITF. “By pooling our resources, we can leverage the educational and civic opportunities that public media offers to solve statewide challenges like this.”
“As public media, we have a unique ability to both raise awareness through our reporting and to convene public forums for dialogue,” said Tom Currá, president and CEO of WVIA. “We are committed to doing our part to reverse the epidemic by educating the public on how opioid addiction happens while at the same time reducing the stigma that prevents people from seeking help.”
In January 2018, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued a disaster declaration for Pennsylvania’s “heroin and opioid epidemic” — the first such declaration for a man-made disaster. Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were 5,655 drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in the 12-month period leading up to December 2017 — more than 15 per day — most of them from opioids. Pennsylvania’s state government has set up a clearinghouse website and hotline (1-800-662-HELP) for anyone who wants to give or get help.
The “Battling Opioids” initiative began in March 2018 with stations running specific programming focused on the opioid crisis, and continues to grow. A new website, BattlingOpioids.org, helps direct people to state resources and keep them informed of project news and local events. “Battling Opioids” has received major support from Geisinger and additional support from the state.
“Many Pennsylvanians want to know what they can personally do to address this crisis,” Pavelko said. “By connecting with ‘Battling Opioids,’ everyone in the state can get involved to make a difference.”
To learn more about the “Battling Opioids” initiative and to view selected segments of the Sept. 27 program, visit www.BattlingOpioids.org and follow @BattlingOpioids on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.