MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – Substance abuse has been among the most serious health care challenges facing communities across Pennsylvania and the nation. As a strategic priority, Penn State is committed to combating substance abuse and as a result has established the Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse. As part of the consortium, Penn State Harrisburg has established the Douglas W. Pollock Center for Addiction Outreach and Research. University officials recently joined with Pollock Foundation representatives and state and local officials to dedicate the center.
“With the establishment and dedication of the Douglas W. Pollock Center for Addiction Outreach and Research, Penn State Harrisburg becomes an active partner in the University’s priority to address substance abuse,” said Chancellor John M. Mason Jr. “We are truly grateful for the $2.5 million leadership gift from the Douglas W. Pollock Foundation which has made this a reality. Penn State Harrisburg is ideally suited to house the center because of our established research expertise, academic infrastructure that combines programs and faculty in related disciplines, and existing partnerships within the region and throughout Penn State. This is an ambitious endeavor, but one that we are pleased to be undertaking.”
The center will initially address two areas of the substance abuse problem within the region, while serving as a catalyst to enhance communications and align numerous agencies and organizations in efforts to combat substance abuse:
- Veterans: Providing targeted assistance to veterans of the U.S. military and their families who are facing addiction-related challenges.
- Community organizations: Helping bolster community organizations in their efforts to more effectively combat substance abuse across the state of Pennsylvania, as well as nationally.
“One of Penn State’s key strategic priorities is enhancing health. As the University has pursued implementation of the tenets of its strategic plan, problems of substance use continue to escalate, posing ever-increasing threats to the health and well-being of citizens of the commonwealth and the nation,” said Madlyn L. Hanes, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor at Penn State. “Last fall the University announced a significant investment in improving health, and the Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse is a key component of our strategic plan implementation. The Douglas W. Pollock Center for Addiction Outreach and Research at Penn State Harrisburg will be a vital part of the consortium.”
Douglas W. Pollock was born and raised in central Pennsylvania and was a 1973 Penn State graduate. A student-athlete in college, Pollock was an ardent Penn State supporter, as well as a supporter of the military and its veterans. Pollock battled mental health issues and addiction throughout his life, which ultimately caused his untimely death in 2016 at the age of 64.
Mike Bangs, attorney for the Douglas W. Pollock Foundation, said, “Doug was plagued by addiction and unfortunately he lost his battle. Unfortunately, Doug’s story is not unique at all. There are deaths every day from addiction. The question we asked was, how can we best use the resources of the foundation to try to attack this problem as a legacy to Doug? That's how the Douglas W. Pollock Center for Addiction Outreach and Research came to life. This center will be hands-on. It will assist any organization on the front lines of attacking this issue. This gift has laid the foundation for the center, but the problem can only be resolved with the collaboration of the public and private centers, businesses, governments, foundations and individuals. We all have to work together and join our resources to attack this addiction problem.”
The center will be headed by Weston Kensinger, assistant teaching professor of health education in Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Behavioral Sciences and Education, where the center will be housed.
“The establishment of the Douglas W. Pollock Center for Addiction Outreach and Research provides a unique opportunity to serve as an extension of the Penn State Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse by providing direct outreach and working hand-in-hand with veterans and community organizations, so that they can better utilize, coordinate, and take advantage of the many resources, tools, and programs already available through the great work being done throughout the region and state,” Kensinger said. “While we celebrate the dedication of the Pollock Center today, there is much work and many challenges ahead.
“By leveraging partnerships, resources, and funding from throughout the University, community, county, and state we can provide veterans and community organizations with the tools and resources they need now, while also making a lasting, positive influence for the future. I believe we owe it to individuals, families, and communities struggling with substance abuse and the disease of addiction to not only meet the immediate need of reducing deaths; but also to facilitate the opportunity to recover to safe, healthy, and productive lives.”
Pennsylvania State Representative Thomas Mehaffie (R-106) spoke about the legislative support for the center.
“Every one of us has been touched by this epidemic, and many people have met with me, trying to come up with a way to figure out how to beat this problem,” he said. “The Douglas W. Pollock Center for Addiction Outreach and Research will provide an important resource as the state confronts the substance-abuse crisis. We are losing 14 Pennsylvanians each day to overdose deaths. This is something that cannot continue. Addiction cuts across all age groups, economic sectors and racial demographics. It is a pressing public health issue.
“We are doing what we can in Harrisburg to confront the opioid epidemic, which includes supporting the attorney general in lawsuits against drug manufacturers. However, I recognize we cannot legislate our way out of this scourge on society. I appreciate the generosity of the Douglas W. Pollock Foundation in making this center possible. Thank you to Penn State for showing leadership on this issue.”
Dauphin County Commissioner George P. Hartwick added that the fight against substance abuse is a community issue.
“All of us must come together in a sense of community and figure out what we can do. There is no handbook; addiction is a disease. All of us have the obligation to stop pointing fingers and be a part of the solution. Government cannot do it alone,” Hartwick said. “We have a lot to learn, and the ability to identify new research, new ways to be innovative, new ways to solve problems is a challenge that lies with this center. I think this partnership will be something that we can be proud of, but make no mistake about it, in Dauphin County we are still not winning the war and we need your help. Last year alone we had 128 accidental drug deaths. We need to figure out a way to provide support to individuals dealing with addiction. Let this be the day that we all get engaged to fight the war on substance abuse.”
For more information about the Douglas W. Pollock Center for Addiction Outreach and Research, visit harrisburg.psu.edu/pollock-center.
Penn State has a longstanding and proud tradition of serving the men and women of our military through education benefits, resources, support and more. This year's Military Appreciation Week from Nov. 8 to 16 will honor America's "Greatest Generation" with a week-long series of campus events, including a football game, Veteran’s Day ceremony, speaker series and more. Visit militaryappreciation.psu.edu to learn more.