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The statistic stopped Colleen D. Hughes in her tracks.

Beneath the record-breaking shadow of deaths related to drug overdoses, which have darkened Westmoreland County in recent years, the municipalities of Mt. Pleasant borough and township have sustained an all-too-tragic number of them, said Hughes, executive director of Westmoreland Drug & Alcohol Commission, Inc.

“We have a lot of overdose deaths in the county, and in the country in general,” she said. “But, really, based on the population of that area, there was a higher percentage (in the Mt. Pleasant area), with six during the 2013 calendar year.”

Such a staggering number compelled Hughes, along with Janet Hoffer, the commission’s prevention coordinator, to suggest Mt. Pleasant and surrounding communities be the focus of federal grant funding it recently acquired to finance a series of programs and projects aimed at enhancing drug and alcohol education and awareness, she said.

The commission, on behalf of the Council on Substance Abuse and Youth, is one of 197 community-based coalitions selected to receive $84 million in Drug-Free Communities grants via the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The money — which totals $625,000 to be disbursed in $125,000 annual increments throughout five years — represents a significant chance to enhance the ongoing efforts of Mt. Pleasant Area Drug Awareness Inc., a local organization established in 1986 to address drug and alcohol abuse, Hughes said.

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