Epidemic In Our Backyard

With more women becoming addicted, the opioid crisis is truly hitting home in Western Pennsylvania. WQED continues its ongoing initiative exploring the epidemic's impact on women, babies and families. This brief video is an overview of the project which includes documentaries, short features, digital-first content, social media and community engagement.


"Broken: Women - Families - Opioids"
A WQED Documentary

Opioid addiction is destructive across all demographics. But compared to men, women’s addiction can have more devastating implications. Some children are born addicted, while others face uncertain futures because of addicted mothers. Many children are placed in foster care, but an increasing number are being raised by extended family – further disrupting lives. We explore how opioid addiction among women is breaking the family bond and changing the fabric of society.

"Hope After Heroin: The Epidemic in our Backyard"
A WQED Documentary

This program explores the opioid crisis in Western Pennsylvania on a broader level - with a focus on how over-prescription of opioid drugs led to today's epidemic. People who have experienced addiction, either themselves or through a loved one, share their stories of struggle, stigma and loss. But they also show how they've managed to use their pain as a catalyst for change, providing hope for others.

Community Engagement

"Hitting Home: Women • Families • Opioids"
A WQED Community Forum

WQED continues its ongoing initiative - exploring the heroin and opioids epidemic in Western Pennsylvania. This live forum is hosted by Lisa Washington and Minette Seate at WQED's Fred Rogers Studio.The panelists are Cheryl Andrews - Washington County Drug & Alcohol Commission, Deborah McDonald - Allegheny Health Network Women's Health Programs, Thelma Turner - Care Navigator. Viewers participated via social media and studio audience interaction.

"Hope After Heroin: Fighting The Epidemic"
A Community Forum

WQED's Fred Rogers Studio hosted a standing room only crowd - with attendees from just about every county in Western Pennsylvania. They gathered to learn more about opioid crisis, while expressing their concerns and sharing resources. Moderator Chris Moore led the discussion exploring the issues directly affecting Western Pennsylvania, the ongoing efforts to deal with the crisis, as well as current initiatives.

"Voices of Hope"
A WQED Digital-First Production

While opioid addiction is increasing among women, there are studies that suggest women have a better chance of long term recovery than men. This short video brings you the stories of seven women who were lost in addiction, but have launched successful new lives. Find out what made a difference.

"Turning Points"
A WQED Digital-First Production

WQED continues its "Hitting Home" campaign with reflections from Pittsburgh area women who discuss turning points in their struggle with opioid addiction.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

"Hope After Heroin: A Community Project"
A WQED Digital-First Production

WQED Multimedia takes an in-depth, multi-platform look at the heroin crisis in Western Pennsylvania. The project includes a full-lengthy documentary, town hall meeting/community forum, direct-to-web videos. An educational component will target students in schools throughout Western Pennsylvania.

Previous Coverage

WQED has spent years reporting on the opioids crisis as it emerged in Western Pennsylvania. These stories from the WQED archives represent part of our ongoing coverage from years past. 

Heroin: The Reality Tour

(Original Broadcast: January 10, 2005) As Pittsburgh coped with a surge in opioid addiction and overdoses, a community group worked with the Allegheny County Jail to warn parents and children about the consequences of heroin use - in what they called "The Reality Tour."

Johnstown: An Epidemic Rises (Part One)

Original Broadcast: January 23, 2001) Oxycontin was a little-known term when WQED first aired this report. It focused on a crime surge in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Part one of the story puts the blame squarely on the abuse of a prescription pain killer.

Johnstown: An Epidemic Rises (Part Two)

(Original Broadcast: January 24, 2001) WQED was among the first to report on the emergence of opioid addiction in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. This second installment of the coverage focused on drug enforcement investigators and the drug manufacturer.

Oxycotin: Message From Its Maker

(Original Broadcast: February 6, 2001) As news reports began to circulate about the dangers of Oxycontin addiction, this short video from WQED features a representative from the company that makes Oxycontin - addressing concerns of patients taking the drug under a doctor's advice.

An Addict's Lament

(Original Broadcast: December 17, 2003) A Pittsburgh-area man offers simple lessons as he reflects on his addiction, recovery efforts and hopes for others.

My Oxycotin Addiction

(Original Broadcast: March 1, 2001) A 39-year-old woman from Fayette County, Pennsylvania is among the first to speak publicly on camera about how she got addicted and how the drug derailed her life in this WQED report.


WQED Digital-First Productions



With the rise in heroin addiction among women, doctors are looking for new ways to help the most vulnerable among that group. West Penn Hospital provides a program where pregnant addicts can receive obstetrical care, drug treatment and counseling all in one appointment.


Dr. Neil Capretto, medical director at Gateway Rehab, explains the signs of addiction.


Dr. Neil Capretto, medical director at Gateway Rehab, explains what do do if you suspect drug abuse.


Dr. Neil Capretto, medical director at Gateway Rehab, explains how Narcan works.


WQED rides along with the Pitcairn Police Department, the first in Western Pennsylvania to carry and administer the drug which counteracts the effects of a heroin overdose. They share their thoughts in this short video. 

Additional Resources

The Pennsylvania Opiods Data Dashboard

What is Act 139 and how did it change laws regarding Naloxone?

Get answers to frequently-asked questions about Naloxone.

Learn more about Pennsylvania’s Opioid Prescribing Guidelines.

Review Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s list of opioid treatment Centers of Excellence.

You can find additional coverage of the region’s heroin epidemic through our media partner, PublicSource, in their series, Riding the Rush.

WQED is also proud to partner with Pennsylvania's public broadcasters - combining resources to raise awareness about the opioids crisis.

WITF's Smart Talk
"Battling Opioids: A Project of Pennsylvania Public Media​"
March 28, 2018

Featured interviews:

00:00 - Kathleen Pavelko, WITF President & CEO describes the statewide collaboration.
06:11 - Beth Dolinar, WQED producer discusses her documentary "Broken: Women - Families - Opioids."
21:54 - Keira McGuire, WITF producer highlights first responders on the front line of the opioid epidemic.
31:30 - Matthew Null, Referral Development Manager for the Central Region of Gaudenzia Treatment and Recovery.



This project is made possible by


ARADThe Pittsburgh Foundation

with additional support from

The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County

Projects like these are made possible through the generous support of WQED members.

Become a member now