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To Battle Spiraling Overdose Rates in Black Communities in Pennsylvania, Innovative Programs Bring Harm Reduction Into Local Neighborhoods 

Vital Strategies Partners with Scattergood Foundation to Fund Nine BIPOC-Led Organizations for Mobile and Street Outreach Teams, Media Campaigns, and Resource Distribution

The United States is in the midst of the worst overdose crisis in its history, with more than 112,000 lives lost in 2023 and rates rising sharply for Black Americans. Pennsylvania experienced more than 5,100 overdose deaths in 2022, and the overdose rate for Black Pennsylvanians was more than double the rate for white Pennsylvanians. Moreover, while the overdose rate for white Pennsylvanians has remained relatively stable since 2018, the rate for Black Pennsylvanians has almost doubled, signaling the urgent need for significant investment in overdose prevention strategies in Black communities.   

To address the surge in overdose deaths in communities of color, public health organization Vital Strategies has partnered with The Scattergood Foundation for the Racial Equity Advancement in Communities through Harm Reduction in Pennsylvania (REACH PA) grant, distributing $450,000 in grant funding to community-based organizations led by Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC). 

Through a competitive application process, nine community organizations were selected for their potential to implement community-based solutions and their commitment to advancing racial equity. For example, one of the grantees, an Erie-based organization, Men of The Community (MOC), will conduct door-to-door outreach to provide substance use and overdose prevention education and distribute resources like naloxone and test strips in the communities where their volunteers grew up. In addition to drawing on their longstanding relationships with business owners, pastors, and social service providers in their area, MOC will also work with the Erie County Office of Drug and Alcohol Abuse to identify neighborhoods most in need of outreach.  

Other grantees will implement mobile and street outreach, public service announcements, expansion of bilingual services and written resources, and other innovative, community-rooted strategies to reduce overdose deaths among BIPOC who use drugs.  Grant funding will support work through December, 2024. 

“Overdose rates are rising fastest among Black and Brown communities, who have already borne the brunt of decades of ineffective and punitive approaches to substance use,” said Dana Kurzer-Yashin, Program Manager for the Overdose Prevention Program at Vital Strategies. “These grants represent our commitment to centering racial justice in our public health work, and to supporting innovative projects by local leaders and trusted voices who have long been at the forefront of supporting their communities.”  

In addition to administering the grants, The Scattergood Foundation will provide technical assistance and training opportunities for grantees and will convene the group to build harm reduction capacity across the Commonwealth.  

“We are honored to partner with Vital Strategies to support organizations across the Commonwealth that are working to advance harm reduction and racial equity,” said Joe Pyle, President of the Scattergood Foundation. “Grassroots organizations that center lived experience are the best positioned to do this work. We’re looking forward to learning alongside the REACH PA grantees.”  

Grants of $50,000 each are being awarded to the following organizations:   

1Hood Media Academy – “Opioid Awareness PSAs and Brunch with A Black Man”: Pittsburgh-based organization that serves as a platform for arts and activism with the mission to build liberated communities through art, education, and social justice.   

AIDS Care Group – “Nourish and Shield Program”: Chester-based federally funded HIV/AIDS clinic and Center of Excellence with an extensive network of social service programs including transportation, food, and clothing assistance, housing, and other client-centered psychosocial services.   

Casa San Jose – “Harm Reduction and Recovery Support for the Latino Community”: Pittsburgh-based resource center that connects, supports, and advocates for the Latino Community. Casa San Jose provides case management, emergency housing coordination, community organizing and advocacy, mental health referrals and counseling, immunizations, legal clinics, trips to consulates, emergency food support, support groups, youth programming, and more.   

Men of the Community – “MOC Targeted Street Outreach”: Erie-based collective of men providing outreach and education about overdose prevention and harm reduction to churches, business, and residents in their local communities.   

Philadelphia Black Women’s Health Alliance – “Philadelphia Black Women’s Health Alliance’s Harm Reduction Initiative”: Philadelphia-based advocacy, health education, and training organization that serves women of color and their families, while promoting and supporting their interest, education, and training in the health professions to further reduce health disparities.   

Project SAFE – “Black Overdose Resilience Project”: Project SAFE is a Philadelphia affinity-based peer-led collective and the second longest running harm reduction group in Philadelphia.   

Unidos, Inc. – “Unidos4Safety Prevention 101”: Allentown-based Latinx Woman, LGBTQIA+, minority led, charitable organization that provides their community with essential services and resources including educational activities, essentials including toiletries, food, and books, STI testing, and harm reduction kits.   

Why Not Prosper, Inc. “Prosperity Path Project (PPP) on the Rolling Engagement Van (REV)”: Philadelphia-based grassroots nonprofit founded by a formerly incarcerated woman for other formerly incarcerated women. Why Not Prosper provides a continuum of programs including pre-release mentoring to incarcerated women, residential services at Why Not Prosper House, and community services at their Resource Center in Philadelphia.   

Womxn Beyond Borders – “Getting from Point A to Point C”: Based in both West Philadelphia and Lancaster, Womxn Beyond Borders is a community-based nonprofit committed to using a universal approach to meeting individuals where they are. Womxn Beyond Borders provides re-entry and pre-entry support, crisis intervention for LCB/TGNC impacted by domestic violence, leadership development and training, advocacy opportunities, yoga and sound therapy, and peer-to-peer support via sex workers’ support groups, domestic violence support groups, and workforce development training opportunities.   

About Vital Strategies       

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our overdose prevention program works to strengthen and scale evidence-based, data-driven policies and interventions to create equitable and sustainable reductions in overdose deaths. Work across seven U.S. States is supported by funding from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Overdose Prevention Initiative, launched in 2018, and by targeted investments from other partners.     

Learn more here.

About the Scattergood Foundation   

 The Scattergood Foundation believes major disruption is needed to build a stronger, more effective, compassionate, and inclusive society where behavioral health is central. At the Foundation, we THINK, DO, and SUPPORT in order to establish a new paradigm for behavioral health, which values the unique spark and basic dignity in every human.   

Learn more at