Isolation, overdoses, fewer recovery options: The opioid epidemic through the eyes of Pittsburgh-area recovery workers

Black residents are now the most likely ones to suffer an overdose in Allegheny County. The pandemic has increased the challenges of addressing an epidemic that was already spiking.

by Oliver Morrison

Stephanie Hamilton-El has been working from the same parking lot near Shuman’s Homewood restaurant almost every Saturday since February.

She’s an outreach worker for Message Carriers, an East Liberty nonprofit focused on addiction recovery. And she’s had a front-row seat to a recent spike in opioid overdoses.

It was still cold outside when she started showing up at the parking lot eight months ago, so she put a sign in her car window that read: “Ask me about Narcan.”

If she saw someone who she thought could use Narcan, she’d jump out of the car and offer it to them, she said.

She had just arrived for work one day at the beginning of the summer when she


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