Board chairwoman: Nonprofit dissolves

Project Bald Eagle, a nonprofit organization formed in 2014 to stem the tide of the heroin and opioid epidemic in Lycoming County, is an outgrowth of the Heroin Task Force that was led by Lycoming County President Judge Nancy L. Butts. The organization focuses on facilitating a coalition of agencies, stakeholders and volunteers to work together in awareness education, data collection and community engagement in order to address this growing health crisis.

Project Bald Eagle’s mission is to reduce deaths due to opiate drug overdoses in Lycoming County by:

• Increasing awareness and community education;

• Strengthening a coalition of partners;

• Reducing fragmentation of services;

• Maximizing community resources for planning and implementation;

• Increasing community engagement;

• Monitoring and evaluating surveillance data; and

• Facilitating training.

In June 2015, a community assessment was completed with more than 50 stakeholders identifying measurable goals and needs.

Prior to that, and during the formative years of Project Bald Eagle, state Sen. Gene Yaw, and the hearings he conducted as chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, provided significant documentation on the impact of the epidemic, what was needed to address it, and the resources that were available or lacking.

This compendium of reports is a key piece of the effort needed to address this multifaceted crisis. Yaw’s leadership to enact legislation and change provider education has also been fundamental in combatting the epidemic.

We are most grateful to the senator and his staff for the guidance provided on this important challenge facing every aspect of our lives in Pennsylvania.

Project Bald Eagle’s awareness education has taken place in churches, school districts, community venues and through jointly sponsored activities with existing organizations.

The organization’s two executive directors coordinated naloxone and certified recovery specialist training and made numerous presentations from 2014-17.

The original funders of Project Bald Eagle are Lycoming County, Lycoming College, UPMC Susquehanna and Pennsylvania College of Technology. Without this original and ongoing funding, Project Bald Eagle would not have been able to exist or make the impact that it has over the three-year period.

On behalf of the board, I extend thanks for your generosity of time and resources. I also wish to thank our grant funders and our in-kind donors.

Funding compels us to take a careful look at the next direction for the organization. In December, the Project Bald Eagle Board voted to regionalize — realizing that the power of a regional approach is appropriate, given the direction the organization was heading.

A staffing change prompted a pause for the organization, funding proposals were put on hold, and a search for a new executive director began.

During this process, it became clear that, in many ways, Project Bald Eagle has accomplished its initial goal. Federal and state funding have increased. Collaboration among existing entities takes place on a regular basis; awareness training must now be replaced with specific, targeted education. Current providers assert their ability and desire to do such training.

The current board believes a regionalized approach is the next step for the organization and in the fight against this health epidemic.

A volunteer leader assisted in a reassessment of the community need for Project Bald Eagle and the desired regional approach.

It is evident that individual counties want to continue with their own work and have indicated that single county authorities and treatment providers are positioned to carry on this initiative.

While opportunities for regionalization exist, we respect the desires of many key partners working in individual communities.

To that end, Project Bald Eagle is eliminating its existing board of directors and will no longer function as a nonprofit entity.

As chairwoman of the board, I thank the board members for their service. I also thank the staff at Penn College who assisted with the operation of Project Bald Eagle. I am most grateful.

Project Bald Eagle was a key organization at a key point in time for the epidemic facing us today. Increased awareness, police departments carrying naloxone and basic education about the opioid crisis effectively communicated to the public are all testaments to our success.

Now, it is time for additional federal and state funding to allow providers the opportunity to move forward in their leadership roles and make a difference.

Our future depends upon it.

The mission statement of Project Bald Eagle: A 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is leading coalition efforts to stem the tide of the heroin epidemic through education, prevention, treatment, enforcement and data monitoring.

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