Opioid awareness run declared a success
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.”
Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline, center left, takes to the course for the Chester County Color 5K.