Penn State Harrisburg officially dedicated a new outreach center intended to serve as a “concierge” for people seeking help for addiction, and for community organizations looking to grow their capacity to address addiction.
The Douglas W. Pollock Center for Addiction Outreach and Research is based at Penn State’s campus near Middletown. It was created with a $2.5 million grant from a foundation established on behalf of Pollock, a Cumberland County native and Penn State graduate who died in 2016 at 64. Pollock had battled substance abuse and mental illness.
The center will have a special focus on helping military veterans. But its services will be available to anyone, and it will also have a major focus on helping organizations, according to Weston Kensinger, the director.
The center won’t provide addiction treatment. Rather, it will assess needs of people seeking treatment and direct them to a local organization or program that meets their needs. If the person faces other obstacles, the center will try to find programs or resources to overcome them.
“It’s really kind of playing matchmaker,” says Weston Kensinger, the director of the center.
With organizations, the center will help them find things like expertise and grants to help them grow and further their mission. Another role will be to tap research and information within Penn State University and push it out to local organizations. That includes making sure they have access to the latest evidence-based approaches to treating addiction, and helping them build programs based on the best science and information.
Still another role will be to coordinate the efforts of entities and programs from the federal level to state government to local grassroots.
The ongoing opioid addiction crisis was a factor in creating the center. However, Mark Kiselica, director of the school of behavioral sciences and education at Penn State Harrisburg, noted it will address other types of substance abuse including alcohol, and addictions such as those involving gambling or sex.
For example, if a pastor concluded addiction to gambling was a problem in the congregation or community, and wanted to start an effort to help, the center could provide guidance.
The center will have a staff of two along with two graduate assistants. A goal is to recruit two graduate assistants per year, with one being a military veteran and the other being involved with a community organization. The center will provide financial assistance toward their educations. A goal is to expand the number of people with addiction-related knowledge working in the local community, Kensinger said.
The center is still in the process of gearing up and doesn’t yet have a contact number for people seeking help. However, Kensinger says anyone who wants to contact the center can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.