What is STEP?

Stretching To EmPower


A unique “one-of-a-kind” program in Allegany County to educate, motivate and strengthen women, arming them intellectually, psychologically and physically against the risks and ravages of opioid misuse.
A 10-week program beginning with 30-minutes of thought provoking education to strengthen your mind — followed by 60-minutes of calming Yoga to restore your body and spirit.

Yoga mats provided
Infused water
Healthy snacks
No cost to attend
Bring a friend

Project Goals:

  1. Increased awareness among participants of opioid misuse risks and dangers;
  2. Enhanced health and well-being of participants;
  3. Improved communications and interactions between participants and healthcare providers;
  4. Increased connectedness of participants with their neighbors and community.

This project will serve female public-housing residents and beyond in 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. Participants will take part in weekly events that will feature an educational component addressing self-care and wellness information and tools, followed by an evidence-based yoga program to develop mind, body and spirit as the ultimate defense against substance misuse.

What is YOGA?

Yoga is a mind-body and exercise practice that combines breath control, meditation, and movements to stretch and strengthen muscles. What sets yoga apart from most other exercise programs is that it places as great an emphasis on mental fitness as on physical fitness. Yoga can help people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, low back pain, and many other types of chronic pain conditions – including depression and anxiety. (health.harvard.edu)


  • Reduce stress
  • Improve mood
  • Weight Loss
  • Decrease total-body tension
  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Reduce risk of injury
  • Reduce anxiety levels
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve outlook on life
  • Cultivate healthier relationships
  • Improve lifestyle habits
  • Improve sleep
  • Decrease pain from many chronic conditions

…and so much more

STEP believes in an osteopathic approach to wellness which focuses on your body’s natural tendency toward health and self-healing. The purpose of yoga is to create strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body. While there are more than 100 different types of yoga, STEP typically includes breathing exercises, meditation, and assuming postures (sometimes called asana or poses) that stretch and flex various muscle groups.

Aside from the physical benefits, one of the best benefits of yoga is how it helps a person manage stress, which is known to have devastating effects on the body and mind. Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug abuse, and an inability to concentrate. Yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life.

Because there are so many different kinds of yoga practices, it is possible for anyone to start. Whether you’re a couch potato or a professional athlete, size and fitness levels do not matter because there are modifications for every yoga pose and beginner classes in every style. The idea is to explore your limits and not strive for perfection. It is a great way to get in tune with your body and your inner self. (http://www.osteopathic.org)

Women & Opioids

Current Statistics


The number of Americans who die from drug overdoses has doubled since 1999, and drug overdoses are now thought to be the leading cause of death among Americans under 50. In 2016, more than 64,000 Americans died from a drug overdose; about 60 percent of these deaths involved an opioid, such as prescription painkillers or heroin. The U.S. Council of Economic Advisors recently estimated that, in 2015, the opioid epidemic’s costs were about half a trillion dollars ($504 million).

Opioids have been heavily promoted to physicians by the pharmaceutical industry, which convinced health care providers that they were undertreating pain, and downplayed the risks of addiction and death.

Although the epidemic of opioid addiction and death has been fueled by prescription opioids, and the dangers of over-prescribing are well-known, the practice continues. In 2016, one in five (19.1%) Americans received an opioid prescription, including 21.8% of women and 16.4% of men. Reproductive age women who receive Medicaid may be more likely to be prescribed opioids.  Among women aged 15-44, one-quarter of privately insured women and one-third of female Medicaid beneficiaries were prescribed opioids between 2008 and 2012.

That is a lot of women to put at risk of opioid use disorder! Yet, there has been relative silence about the opioid epidemic’s disproportionate impact on women.

Women are more likely than men to become dependent on opioids because, compared to men, they are more likely to:



  • Experience pain, including chronic pain

  • Be prescribed opioids

  • Become dependent after using a smaller amount of opioids for less time

  • Use more potent opioids for longer periods of time



Articles & Photos of STEP

Program Partners

Allegany College of Maryland
Allegany County Health Department
Allegany County Housing Authority
Cumberland Housing Authority
Frostburg Housing Authority
Tri State Community Health Center
Cumberland City & Frostburg Police Departments
Allegany County Sheriff’s Department
Trivergent Health Alliance
Allegany County Library System


STEP is funded by a 3-year grant from the federal Office on Women’s Health

Contact Us

Jen Thomas, STEP Program Coordinator

AHEC West, 39 Baltimore Street, Suite 201,
Cumberland, MD 21502
301-777-9150 ext. 109



STEP classes now being held at Grande View Apartments in Westernport and John F Kennedy in Cumberland. Contact us for details!