Natalie Kauffman

Natalie Kauffman

As 2019 has drawn to a close and we embark on the journey of 2020, we would like to highlight accomplished progress from aligned actions of members of the Cambria County Drug Coalition (CCDC). A coalition is a formal arrangement for cooperation and collaboration between groups of the community, in which each group retains its identity, but all agree to work together as a team.

The Cambria County Drug Coalition consists of more than 100 volunteers representing all effected sectors in the National Drug-Free Communities Model.

Strategic direction is driven by five steering chairs which include law enforcement, health care, recovery and treatment, community education and prevention education.

On Oct. 29, the CCDC held its annual report-out event at Richland High School. Since 2016 the coalition has stayed the course. Collaborations from all affected sectors have led to positive impact. Strategic progress in all areas of operations of the coalition where reported on by coalition steering chairs. Some highlights from each of their messages:

• Kristy Freoni, Cambria County chief detective, is the steering chair of the law enforcement committee. She reported that 2,800 pounds of unwanted and unused prescription medications were safely disposed of via 21 permanent collection sites across the county and two Drug Enforcement Administration collection events.

One hundred and twenty-three doses of the lifesaving medication, Narcan, had been administered by law enforcement alone and overdose deaths have declined from 94 in 2016 to 37 confirmed for 2019 at the time of the event.

• Jeannine McMillan, executive director of Pathways Community HUB at the 1889 Jefferson Center for Population Health, is the steering chair of the health care committee.

McMillan reported about the Maternal Addiction Resource Center (MARC) of Conemaugh Health System opened in September through efforts of many collaborative partner. To date, 58 referrals of expectant mothers have been made to the program, a true asset to the county.

Medication assisted treatment (MAT) was introduced via the emergency department. and to date 30 referrals have been made.

A partnership with Drug Free Workplace of Pennsylvania led to training more than 600 nurses and health care supervisors.

Three “Hope, Happiness and Healing” commercials continue to air and highlight individuals and their different pathways to recovery.

• Tracey Selak is the administrator of Behavioral Health/Intellectual/Early Intervention Program of Cambria County and the steering chair of treatment and recovery.

The recovery workgroup aims to reduce stigma linked to substance use disorder and to spread the message that recovery is a reality.

More than 300 people combined attend the International Overdose Awareness Day event in August and Recovery in the Valley in September.

The workgroup has held 12 person first language trainings and has trained 150 community members.

These trainings support the workgroup’s goal of reducing stigma. Members of the workgroup filmed a thank you video to support the first responder appreciation breakfast in collaboration with faith-based sector committee.

• Amy Bradley is president and CEO of the Cambria Regional Chamber and steering chair of the community education committee.

This steering committee is comprised of three sector committees (media, faith-based and business) which all focus on disseminating information to the community regarding matters linked to drugs.

The media sector is supported through collaborations with WJAC, WTAJ, The Tribune-Democrat’s Coalition Corner and Forever Media’s Connecting Hearts Campaign. Prime Design partners with the CCDC to create print media and Kaleidoscope supports with their weekly good news magazine.

Top Dog Productions also partners with the CCDC to provide multi-media support for events. The faith based sector focuses on reducing stigma and raises awareness of pathways to recovery. In October, the second annual First Responder Appreciation breakfast was held where 125 first responders across Cambria County were recognized for their hard work on the front lines.

The business sector has created partnerships with CamTran and Richland Cinemas to raise awareness through a statewide campaign designed to educate communities across the commonwealth about opiate use disorder. (

• Fred Oliveros, administrator of the Cambria County Drug and Alcohol Program, is the steering chair for the prevention education committee.

In Oliveros’ report, he shared the evidence-based prevention curriculum, Botvin LifeSkills Training (LST), has been implemented in all Cambria County schools and within the parochial schools of the Johns-town-Altoona Diocese.

LST is an interactive and flexible curriculum that helps youth to develop skills to resist negative peer pressure, build confidence and self-mastery and cope with social anxiety.

LST also increases youths’ knowledge of the immediate and long-term consequences of substance misuse and abuse. True drug prevention goes beyond saying no to drugs, Botvin LifeSkills Training teaches youth resiliency skills that lead to lifelong success and saying yes to self.

It is through the work of 100-plus volunteers that the Cambria County Drug Coalition continues to see positive change in Cambria County.

Endless appreciation goes to those who do this work in their respective fields of law enforcement, health care, treatment and recovery, community education and education prevention.

We will continue to stay the course to create drug free communities across Cambria County.

Follow Coalition on Facebook at @CambriaCountyDrugCoalition and on Twitter at @CambriaCDC.

Natalie Kauffman is prevention support specialist at Cambria County Drug Coalition.

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