“If we had an answer -- if we knew what to do -- I know that at every level of leadership, we would have done it."By Meghan Schiller

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Local leaders are calling it a crisis only further exasperated by the pandemic. They’re now using a new opioid overdose dashboard to shed light on the question “how can we help people struggling with opioid addiction?”

“If we had an answer — if we knew what to do — I know that at every level of leadership, we would have done it,” said Laura Drogowski, the City of Pittsburgh’s Office of Community Health and Safety manager.

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She’s part of the city’s office compiling the latest data from Public Safety to populate this new dashboard.

The dashboard’s information will go beyond coroner data simply saying if a person died and if drugs were in their system. Pastor Lance Rhoades tells KDKA we can now use the dashboard to cross-reference with first responder data to see if someone called 911.

“Was something like naloxone used? How was it used? Who used it? How can we get more naloxone into those communities?”

Along with the pews and the stained glass sit boxes of naloxone inside Tree of Life Open Bible Church. Senior Pastor Rhoades is versed in scripture and known to take lifesaving action using this opioid reversal along Brookline Boulevard.

“I had no personal lived experience with recovery and no professional experience with it so I said I got to figure out how we can help people,” said Pastor Rhoades.

He’s turned his sanctuary into a safe space for people in recovery, becoming engrossed in the mission of the South Pittsburgh Opioid Action Coalition. He tells KDKA it is Allegheny County’s only approved coalition for reducing opioid overdoses.

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“There is no community in Pittsburgh that is exempt from this. Unfortunately, people who have substance abuse disorders used to be identified to certain racial or social demographics, but that’s no longer true,” said Pastor Rhoades.

The Opioid Overdose Dashboard tracks both overdose deaths and people who overdosed and lived. It overlays EMS data on a map of Allegheny County, providing information that we often never learn.

“We want to be able to help them to understand — are people dying alone? Or what is the context of an overdose — not just what are numbers because. These are human beings so what is that experience?” said Drogowski.

She tells KDKA that Public Safety used to report data yearly and this new dashboard puts the data at the community’s fingertips now.

“We couldn’t wait another year to understand what is happening now. We are trying to get that out,” said Drogowski. “We have reports that we’re sending out to community partners with varying degrees of information depending on their level of expertise.”

Community partners like Pastor Rhoades.

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“I think we have in the capacity of our city to be able to be loving and compassionate who are going through an incredibly hard thing and a lot of people just don’t understand it and as we understand the problem, we’ll be able to understand and be a part of the solution.”

Meghan Schiller