Walk­ing through stigma of ad­dic­tion in Up­per Darby

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Kevin Tustin ktustin@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com

UP­PER DARBY » Stacey Bruhn-Robin­son had no idea how much she would be help­ing peo­ple on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

In speak­ing with her friend Tina Hamil­ton she re­vealed through tears of joy that two peo­ple signed up for re­cov­ery at Up­per Darby’s first Drug Pre­ven­tion and Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mu­nity Day at Ar­ling­ton Ceme­tery. A day she co­or­di­nated with the town­ship to pro­vide drug and over­dose ed­u­ca­tion turned into a pos­si­ble lifechang­ing event for those two peo­ple who sought to get help.

“There was some­body that walked with us in the be­gin­ning who talked about need­ing re­cov­ery and we just hooked her up with some place to go,” said Bruhn. “At the end, some­body came up talk­ing about re­cov­ery and we just hooked her up.

“This was bet­ter than the ul­ti­mate goal.”

At the heart of Satur­day’s event was the Andy For­ever Over­dose Aware­ness Walk, a stroll through the grounds of Ar­ling­ton Ceme­tery for peo­ple to re­mem­ber loved ones who have lost their lives to drugs. The walk’s name­sake is that of Charles “Andy” Bruhn, the el­dest of Stacey’s five chil­dren who lost his life to an over­dose in April 2017.

With fam­ily and friends she started the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion Andy For­ever, Inc. to break the stigma of re­cov­ery and to help peo­ple who are in the early stages of re­cov­ery. Andy’s name­sake has been used to stand for Ad­dic­tion Never De­fines You (For­ever).

“It be­came that we needed to do more,” said Bruhn about reach­ing out to the com­mu­nity and co­or­di­nat­ing Satur­day’s event. “We came up with this, and we thought what a bet­ter way than to hold a fair with dif­fer­ent ven­dors, re­cov­ery spe­cial­ists and be­hav­ioral health spe­cial­ists?

“We wanted to bring aware­ness, to ed­u­cate the com­mu­nity. Any­body who needed ed­u­ca­tion, any­one who needed to know signs or symp­toms of ad­dic­tion, how preva­lent it is ... it (ad­dic­tion) has no bound­aries.”

Through a col­lec­tion of 24 ven­dors that in­clude re­cov­ery cen­ters like Gau­den­zia and Re­cov­ery Cen­ter of Amer­ica, and other in­for­ma­tional booths like the Delco Heroin Task Force, peo­ple were treated to a num­ber of ed­u­ca­tional plat­forms sur­round­ing drug pre­ven­tion.

Out­side of com­mu­nity mem­bers like Bruhn who have been directly af­fected by a loss in their fam­ily are the pol­i­cy­mak­ers and en­forcers who are left try­ing to han­dle the grow­ing breadth of the prob­lem that has claimed over 5,400 lives in Penn­syl­va­nia in 2017 alone

ac­cord­ing to the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Delaware County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Katay­oun Copeland, state Rep. Jamie San­tora, R-163 of Up­per Darby, Up­per Darby Mayor Tom Mi­cozzie and Up­per Darby Po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent Michael Chit­wood spoke at the com­mu­nity day to pro­vide their own per­spec­tives about com­mu­nity out­reach in this drug scourge.

“The is­sue im­pacts us as a com­mu­nity, it im­pacts in­di­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies,” he said. “I truly be­lieve there’s not a fam­ily in Amer­ica that’s not im­pacted in some way, shape or form with this hor­ri­ble dis­ease of ad­dic­tion. We see it in the streets of Up­per Darby all of the time. With the use of Nar­can it’s been a sav­ing grace for those who are ad­dicted.

“Those peo­ple who are ad­dicted need the help that they can get, and I think slowly but surely we’re get­ting there.”

Copeland said it is her job to hold peo­ple re­spon­si­ble, but also to rec­og­nize “when peo­ple are in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem be­cause of an ad­dic­tion.” “That’s part of my of­fice’s goal to help peo­ple with treat­ment and not in­di­vid­u­als who will com­mit crimes who are af­flicted, and not put them in jail be­cause they are an ad­dict; to help pro­vide for them,” she said.

Copeland added, “If they don’t take ad­van­tage of that mo­ment then we’ll do it again, and if they don’t take ad­van­tage of that mo­ment, we’ll do it again. There is no end to that.”

It was Copeland who started the county’s treat­ment court as an as­sis­tant dis­trict at­tor­ney in 1998 which has helped peo­ple get court-or­dered treat­ment for their ad­dic­tions in lieu of in­car­cer­a­tion.

Work­ing with San­tora, Bruhn will be es­tab­lish­ing a com­mu­nity safe space for ad­dicts on Fri­days and Satur­days, days that could be trig­gers for il­licit ac­tiv­ity that may fuel their drug habit. The goal is to have peo­ple be able to en­gage so­cially and have ac­cess to cer­ti­fied re­cov­ery spe­cial­ists. Fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on when and where this space will open was not avail­able Satur­day as it is still in its pre­lim­i­nary stages.

Un­til then, Bruhn and the Andy For­ever foun­da­tion will keep as­sist­ing peo­ple with the re­sources they need to get help and hold­ing an­nual walks in honor of the thou­sands who have lost their lives.

“We’re go­ing to walk and keep walk­ing ev­ery year to re­mem­ber those lost and keep fight­ing to get those that need help into re­cov­ery,” said Bruhn.

KEVIN TUSTIN - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Stacey Bruhn-Robin­son hugs Tina Hamil­ton af­ter re­veal­ing that two peo­ple signed up for re­cov­ery at Satur­day’s event. Bruhn said wit­ness­ing those sign-ups was “bet­ter than the ul­ti­mate goal” of ed­u­cat­ing the com­mu­nity about drug ad­dic­tion. Bruhn lost her son Charles “Andy” to a drug ad­dic­tion in April 2017 and helped co­or­di­nate the com­mu­nity event with the town­ship.

KEVIN TUSTIN - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

State Rep. Jamie San­tora, R-163 of Up­per Darby, speaks at the Drug Pre­ven­tion and Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mu­nity Day which was put on at Ar­ling­ton Ceme­tery in Drexel Hill with the help of Betty Jean Cicchinelli, back left, and Stacey Bruh­nRobin­son, back right.

KEVIN TUSTIN - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Delaware County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Katay­oun Copeland, right, hugs Stacey Bruhn-Robin­son for in­spir­ing the com­mu­nity to get en­gaged and help fight fu­ture drug over­dose fa­tal­i­ties. Ac­cord­ing to the Drug En­force­ment Agency, drug deaths in the state have in­creased from 3,500 in 2015 to 5,400 in 2017.

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