Carole Bailey, president and CEO of the East End Cooperative Ministry, prepares a box in the organization's food pantry. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

In the ongoing pandemic, Pittsburgh’s homeless service providers report increased need and costs

When stay-at-home orders were enacted in late March, many people experiencing homelessness had nowhere to go. Shelters around the city saw increases in demand and have had to adapt to this new reality, taking measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, keep residents occupied and help people living on the streets. These new conditions have had an impact on residents’ mental health and, combined with heightened demand, have increased shelters’ operating costs.

(Illustration by ah_designs/iStockphoto.com)

Allegheny County hoped the tide had turned on the opioid epidemic. Early data suggests it may be surging again

The number of Allegheny County residents dying of opioid overdoses is rising again, after a drop of 40% in 2018 had many health experts hoping the tide of the epidemic had turned. The most recent data shows that the county had a 15% increase in overdose deaths in 2019. The 564 overdose deaths in 2019 were the third highest yearly total, according to data from Overdose Free PA. In 2016 and 2017, there were 650 and 737 total overdose deaths respectively. And the epidemic may only be getting worse in 2020, according to overdose data provided by the city of Pittsburgh, the county health department and the nonprofit Prevention Point Pittsburgh. 

During the first five months of 2020 Allegheny County recorded a 28% increase in the total number of times emergency responders administered naloxone for an overdose compared to the first five months of 2019. 
Pittsburgh recorded a 50% increase in overdose calls during that same time period.

(Photo via iStock)

Ten ways employers can support working parents during the pandemic

Do you often find yourself hiding in the bathroom while on the phone? Are small, uninvited guests constantly crashing your Zoom calls? 

If so, there’s a good chance you’re a working parent. 

For many working parents, whether they’re working remotely or outside of the home, the pandemic has made juggling job and family duties even tougher. 

“We jokingly say that we’re playing hot potato,” Ashley Zahorchak said of caring for her 7-month-old baby while she and her husband work from home. Zahorchak serves as the director of youth services and STEM education at YWCA Greater Pittsburgh. “Whoever is not on a call or on a meeting, we’re juggling parenting duties like that.”

It’s been over two months since the COVID-19 shutdown disrupted the work-life balance, and daycare centers in the state are now allowed to reopen. Yet some parents are still facing many unprecedented challenges, said Heather Hopson, creator of Single Mom Defined, an art project and blog that celebrates Black motherhood.

(Courtesy photos)

Mental Health Awareness: These Pittsburghers share the importance of supporting themselves and others in this pandemic

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and amid the pandemic, mental health support is more important than ever. Helpful tips are everywhere on the internet, but nothing replaces personal experiences. So, to amplify mental health stories in Pittsburgh area and curate local perspectives, we reached out to about a dozen community leaders and invited them to answer three questions.

Quick to judge: Let’s reform how healthcare workers treat people with substance use and mental health disorders

The emergence of COVID-19 has put health care in breaking news. Every day, we hear of the tragic deaths due to this pandemic. We are also hearing of heroic efforts by healthcare workers, what they are doing for their patients and how communities are coming together to help one another out in this trying time. COVID-19 has also exposed weaknesses in the U.S. healthcare system, like the lack of personal protective equipment, poor regulations on long-term care facilities and poor response from government agencies. 

Another weakness to consider is the stigma and bias that those with mental health disorders and substance use disorders experience in the healthcare system. The bias and stigma come directly from healthcare professionals. 

I know firsthand the effects of stigma and bias on patients because I have been working in health care for 22 years; 19 of those years have been serving people with mental health and substance use disorders.

(Illustration by Jay Manning)

Pandemic-era policing: Fewer crimes, but signs of rising stress

Since the first week of the pandemic-related shutdown, Pittsburgh police have seen the overall demand for their services, including investigations of theft, assault and harassment, decrease substantially.

Yet police responses to a variety of non-criminal events, including civil disputes and mental health emergencies, have increased, likely due to the stressors of staying at home.

woman distributing food

Allegheny County exploring range of quarantine options for people who can’t just stay home

Allegheny County is hunting for a location to house homeless and displaced people who contract the new coronavirus but don’t warrant hospitalization, officials confirmed today. Staff at shelters, meanwhile, have begun asking clients whether they are experiencing symptoms and, in some cases, taking temperatures — but don’t yet know what to do when they find a case.