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Sunday Spotlight: Onala Recovery Center's Mission To Help People Reclaim Their Lives

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- What started out as an old truck garage is now a recovery center that helps thousands overcome their drug or alochol addiction.

The Onala Recovery Center has been around since 1952 and it continues to expand, helping people reclaim their lives.

"This place has really changed my life," said Jennifer Bloodworth who is the center's adminstrator.

Bloodworth hopes to save others.

Bloodworth's drug and alcohol addiction led her to the Onala Recovery Center in 2010. "To find a place where I could not feel alone, it was a game changer," said Bloodworth.

The Center was also a safe haven for Dennis Regan in 1978, when it was just a social club for Alcoholics Anonymous.

"I was able to socialize or interact with people who had years of sobriety, and those are the people that guided me into what I have found today," said Regan, who is now the center's director.

"I know what it did for me, and I know what it can do for others," said Regan.

Bloodworth says especially at a time when overdose deaths are rising again. "We're seeing more and more fentanyl associated with amphetamine, "uppers," or cocaine and that's very risky if you have people who are causal cocaine users, casual drug users," said Bloodworth. "They have no tolerance for opioids."

According to the Allegheny County overdose dashboard, in 2020, there were 688 overdose deaths with 86% involving fentanyl in Allegheny County. That is the highest since 2017.

So far this year, there were 401 overdose deaths with 88% involving fentanyl.

"I noticed here an increase in relapse among people with long term sobriety, but I also noticed an increase in people coming in, especially young people," said bloodworth.

The center offers several services including recovery meetings, narcan training, recovery specialists, rehab referrals and even free food on Wednesdays.

"We have 52 meetings a week," said Regan. "last month, we had 4,600 people, come into our facility, and that's in one month."

"We're here and it's free," said Bloodworth. "you just walk in and that's what I really love about this place."

"It can help anybody," said Regan. "And it can be positive. What a life. Life is to be celebrated. I owe it all to my recovery."

Regan says they're in the process of renovating the center.

The center is holding its first community overdose education and narcan training for food industry workers.

It's on Monday from 2- 4 at the Thunderbird Café and Music Hall in lawrenceville.

You can walk-in or pre-register.

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