Opi­oid aware­ness run de­clared a suc­cess

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael P. Rel­la­han mrel­la­han@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Ch­escoCourtNews on Twit­ter

WEST CH­ESTER >> The Ch­ester County com­mis­sion­ers on Tues­day pro­nounced the re­cent Color 5K event held to high­light the dangers of opi­oid and heroin ad­dic­tion, as well as to raise money for care pro­grams for ad­dicts, a suc­cess.

Led by Com­mis­sioner Michelle Kich­line, who was called the “brain­child” of the event by her col­leagues, the three mem­bers paid trib­ute to those who had helped or­ga­nize the event and those who par­tic­i­pated in it, both county em­ploy­ees and county res­i­dents.

“It was an ex­tra­or­di­nary suc­cess,” said Kich­line in brief re­marks at the con­clu­sion of the com­mis­sion­ers’ work ses­sion. She said as many as 770 peo­ple had lined up for the “color run,” a “groundswell of par­tic­i­pa­tion” for the event that she said came

to­gether in a short pe­riod of time.

Chair­man Ter­ence Far­rell called the event a “tremen­dous day” and ex­pressed cer­tainty that it would con­tinue in the fu­ture. “This could be even larger,” he said. Vice Chair­woman Kathi Coz­zone added her thanks to the “num­ber of peo­ple who showed up and wanted to par­tic­i­pate.”

But Kich­line, amidst her en­thu­si­asm, added a note of cau­tion that she and her fel­low com­mis­sion­ers “con­tinue to hear from folks about this is­sue.”

In com­ments she made af­ter the event, Kich­line stated that, “the facts are ter­ri­fy­ing” about opi­oid and heroin ad­dic­tion and death from over­doses.

“Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol/ Na­tional Cen­ter for Health Sta­tis­tics, there were nearly 44,000 deaths from drug poi­son­ing in 2013, 81 per­cent of which were ac­ci­den­tal over­doses,” she said. “Just last month, (the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion) pub­lished in­for­ma­tion that showed the rate of U.S. chil­dren hos­pi­tal­ized for pre­scrip­tion-opi­oid over­doses more than dou­bled over a 16-year pe­riod end­ing in 2012, and hos­pi­tal­iza­tions for heroin over­doses among teens 15 to 19 nearly tripled over the same pe­riod.”

She also wrote that the at­mos­phere in Ever­hart Park in West Ch­ester on Nov. 5, when the run was held, was charged with a range of emo­tions which re­flected the pur­pose of the event.

“For many, it was an oc­ca­sion to re­mem­ber and honor loved ones who lost their lives to opi­oids or heroin, or those who con­tinue to fight the ef­fects of ad­dic­tion to opi­oids or heroin ev­ery day,” she said. “For oth­ers, it was an op­por­tu­nity to con­trib­ute to aware­ness­rais­ing and fundrais­ing for a dis­ease that is af­fect­ing our com­mu­nity, our state and our na­tion.

“But for ev­ery­one, it was a morn­ing that was bright and fun, and that al­lowed us to come to­gether and show that Ch­ester County will con­tinue to find prac­ti­cal and ef­fec­tive ways to ad­dress and com­bat this epi­demic,” Kich­line stated.

The event raised money to help fund a “warm hand­off” pro­gram at area hos­pi­tals. In that ef­fort, those who sur­vive over­doses of drugs and who are treated at area hos­pi­tals would be trans­ferred to an ad­dic­tion care or re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fa­cil­ity from the hos­pi­tal di­rectly, in­stead of be­ing dis­charged with­out care.

“This warm hand-off pro­gram will en­sure that those who have been phys­i­cally saved from an over­dose can and will be di­rected from the hos­pi­tal to the right pro­gram to bring phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tional heal­ing through treat­ment and coun­sel­ing,” Kich­line said. The amount of money raised is still be­ing de­ter­mined, county of­fi­cials said.

Kich­line also thanked county District At­tor­ney Tom Ho­gan, the other spon­sors and or­ga­ni­za­tions who vol­un­teered, as well as the county’s Fa­cil­i­ties Depart­ment staff who pre­pared for the event. “I con­grat­u­late each and ev­ery one of you for mak­ing the de­ci­sion to join in the col­lab­o­ra­tive work that Ch­ester County is un­der­tak­ing to ad­dress the drug abuse and over­dose prob­lem,” she said. “We will con­tinue to work at it un­til the prob­lem is elim­i­nated.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO — RE­BECCA BRAIN

Ch­ester County Com­mis­sioner Michelle Kich­line, cen­ter left, takes to the course for the Ch­ester County Color 5K.

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