STEP: Stretching To EmPower


... empowered in the stretching

The STEP program is one of 20 community initiatives nationwide approved in July, 2017 by the federal Office on Women's Health (OWH) to reduce opioid misuse among women.Established in 1991, OWH is an agency of  the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tasked with coordinating women's health efforts across HHS. OWH addresses critical women's health issues by informing and advancing policies, educating health care professionals and consumers, and supporting model programs.
From the introduction to the grant application that secured OWH funding for STEP:
"This project seeks to serve female public-housing residents in three communities of Allegany County, Md., forging a sustainable program that educates, motivates and strengthens women, arming them intellectually, psychologically and physically against the risks and ravages of opioid misuse. Led by a fully trained and culturally competent Community Health Worker (CHW), participants will take part in weekly events that will feature an educational component addressing general and female-related opioid use, followed by an evidence-based yoga program to develop mind, body and spirit as the ultimate defense against substance misuse."

Governing Board members of STEP include the following agencies:
Allegany County Health Department, Tri-State Community Health Center, Allegany College of Maryland, the housing authorities of Allegany County, Cumberland and Frostburg, and AHEC West. 
Supportive Partnering Agencie include:
Allegany County Sheriff's Office, Cumberland City Police Department, Frostburg City Police Department

Following organizational development and training, the STEP program began in earnest early in 2018, with weekly yoga sessions at no cost for female residents of the public housing agencies in Cumberland, Frostburg, and Westernport. The yoga program is held for 10 consecutive weeks, with a second 10-week session conducted later in the year. Other activities and programs will be held in the intervening months. For more information about STEP, contact Program Coordinator Jen Thomas at 301-777-9150 X-109 or by email at

Award announcement, background on Prevention of Opioid Misuse in Women program, click here

The July 28, 2017 article in the Cumberland Times-News announcing OWH approval of the STEP program, click here
Hearst Television story on new STEP program, click here
WBAL news radio in Baltimore story on new STEP program, click here

STEP Project Summary (excerpted from grant application narrative)
STEP "One Pager" brief program description
Why Yoga? Click here

The Office on Women's Health website
The Office on Women's Health fact sheet
The Office on Women's Health: How We're Fighting the Opioid Epidemic
The Office on Women's Health White Paper: Opioid Use, Misuse, and Overdose in Women

From the National Institute on Drug Abuse: Substance Use in Women

From "Balance Me Beautiful"a great summary of yoga's health benefits: This Is What 30 Minutes of Yoga Can Do
From the American Osteopathic Association: The Benefits of Yoga
From The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Trauma Senstive Yoga

Teaching Thousands to Care for Millions: The Center for Mind-Body Medicine
From the American College of Rheumatology: Mind-Body Techniques for Pain Management
From Stat News: Your Mind Can Be Trained to Control Pain, But Treatment Is Costly
All natural remedies to help battle opioid use and misuse, including yoga

From HHS: The Opioid Epidemic: By the Numbers
From HHS: A Toolkit for Faith and Community Leaders Facing the Opioid Epidemic

From the National Rural Health Association: Policy Brief - Treating the Rural Opioid Epidemic   
From the Rural Health Information Hub: Opioid Epidemic - Testing the Limits of Rural Healthcare
In the News
Report: Only 3 in 10 overdose vicitms receive follow-up addiction meds
Washington Post: Opioid Rx crackdown sparks surge in heroin, fentanyl deaths
Washington Post: ER visits for opioid overdoses up 30 percent
Washington Post: Over 10 years 21 million opioid pills shipped to small WV town
Commentary: Tom Petty's death reinforces need for oipioids, Rx education
New York Times: New rules aids medically assisted addiction treatment
NPR: Docs say pain often part of recovery
Washington Post: Opioids to blame as U.S. life expectancy declines
Rewire: Prescription Opioid Addicition a Woman's Issue
STAT health news: Surgeon General's own brother in grip of decades long addiction, destruction
Washington Post: Appalachian overdose deaths far outpace U.S. rate
More and more grandparents raising grandchildren due to opioid crisis
Hagerstown police officer recounts decline, loss of daughter
ABC News video report: Middle Aged Women Prescribed the most Opoiods
Glamour: Women and Opioids: Inside the Deadliest Epidemic in American History
Cincinnati Enquirer: 7 Days of Heroin: This is What an Epidemic Looks Like
Washington Post:: In one year 1.3 million Americans needed hospital care for opioids; Md. ranked at top
Reuters: Oversupply of pain pills after surgery helps fuel opioid epidemic
STAT News: Why primary care doctors are staying out of opioid fight
STAT News: Indiana doctor gunned down after refusing opioid Rx
STAT News: In one night she lost two sons to opioids
Kaiser Health News: Pain meds for dying hospice patients ending up in wrong hands