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Highmark Caring Place, Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance to present forum for families of those who lost their battle with opioid addiction

Free forum to provide education, support to grieving families

Camp Hill, Pa. (Sept. 19, 2017) — Amid a growing state and national opioid addiction crisis, The Highmark Caring Place and the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA) will present a special forum for families coping with the overdose death of a loved one on Wednesday Sept. 20, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Highmark Caring Place at 3 Walnut Street in Lemoyne, Pa.

The program will offer information, support, and personal stories of coping after the death of a loved one due to overdose. It will also provide an understanding of grief from the perspective of those who have experienced the tragedy of overdose death. Topics will include:

  • How children grieve and how the child's experience differs from an adult's grieving process
  • Special challenges for families who have lost someone due to overdose, such as shame, isolation, and anger
  • Coping with the loss of a child while caring for a grieving grandchild
  • Personal stories of coping and finding meaning in the tragedy
  • Resources and support

Presenters will include Beth Bitler, Program Director for PA Family Support Alliance; Terri Bowling, Child Grief Specialist at Highmark Caring Place; and Terry and Lori Mishler, founders of Sara's House of Hope.

"A growing number of families across the communities Highmark serves are facing the daunting challenges of this pervasive addiction, and those who have lost the fight for their loved ones are enduring a very specific type of grief," said Dan Onorato, executive vice president of Highmark Health. "The Highmark Caring Place has helped families who have lost loved ones with their grief for the past 20 years, but these particular families are dealing with feelings and issues that are unique to this type of loss. We understand how important is to provide information and support that addresses their very distinct needs."

According to Angela M. Liddle, MPA, President and CEO of PFSA, many families grapple with feelings of guilt and failure because they could not prevent the death of their loved one. "This forum will help families get the information and support they need to begin to cope with those feelings. They'll also have an opportunity to meet other families going through these same emotions." Liddle pointed out that the most frequent reason a child enters the child welfare system is parental substance abuse.

According to Onorato, Highmark has made a strong commitment to providing resources to battle the opioid addiction issues that are occurring throughout the communities Highmark serves.

Highmark's efforts have included several major grants to help address the crisis, including $100,000 in grants to the PA District Attorneys Institute to support the PA Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs (DDAP) in establishing a naloxone administration program to assist municipal police departments in reducing opioid overdoses. In addition, Highmark has provided grants to fund forums in communities in both Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Highmark's commitment to fighting the opioid crisis also includes monitoring and management of both physician prescribing and member use of opioids as well as providing coverage of methadone, which helps addicts become more successful in fighting their addiction.

Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance prevents child abuse and protects children from harm by helping parents learn positive parenting techniques, educating professionals and volunteers who work with children to recognize and report child abuse, and helping community members learn how they can play a positive role in keeping children safe. To learn more about our programs, schedule a training, or make a donation, please visit, or call 800-448-4906.

The forum is free of charge and open to the public. Pre-registration is required and space is limited. To register, email For questions or more information, call PFSA at 717-238-0937 or the Highmark Caring Place at 866-613-4673.

About the Highmark Caring Place

The mission of the Highmark Caring Place, A Center for Grieving Children, Adolescents and Their Families, is to raise awareness of the needs of grieving children, provide programs to address those needs, and empower the community to support children who have experienced the death of a loved one. Since its inception in 1996, the Caring Place has served more than 90,000 family and community members. Financial support from Highmark Inc. allows the Caring Place, with facilities in Lemoyne, Erie, Pittsburgh and Warrendale, Pennsylvania to offer its programs at no cost to the families and the community. Please visit


Leilyn Perri
Highmark Health

Nell McCormack Abom
Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance