Commissioners hear social service updates
NORRISTOWN >> Montgomery County’s efforts to stem the tide of opioid-related overdoses and to connect those in need with vital services was at the forefront of the county commissioners’ latest meeting.
First, the commissioners heard from members of the county’s Overdose Task Force Working Group, an interdepartmental coalition dedicated to fighting the opioid epidemic on all fronts.
The group consists of members of adult probation, the commissioner’s office, health and human services, the office of drugs and alcohol, the district attorney’s office, the public defender’s office, public safety, and the coroner’s office.
Several members of the group presented aspects of their annual report, including a coroner’s presentation which showed a slight tapering off of largely opioid-related drug overdose deaths (245) in 2017 from 2016
(249). This comes after a sharp increase in overdose deaths that began in the last quarter of 2015 and continued through 2016.
Of particular note was the rise in fentanyl and fentanyl analog-related overdoses, as these substances can be exponentially stronger, and more lethal than heroin.
Brian P. Pasquale of the department of public safety announced a recently procured grant from the Bureau of Justice that would improve the county’s overdose database and “give all those folks involved on the front lines of opioid response, better information in a more timely manner.”
Department of Health and Human Services Administrator Kristen Fisher updated the commissioners on the county’s naloxone education and distribution efforts.
Fisher highlighted several free venues where residents can pick up naloxone kits, including an upcoming event at the New Life Presbyterian Church in Glenside, Tuesday, Dec. 4.
She also said those without insurance or dealing with financial hardship can get the potentially life-saving opioid reversal drug at any of the department’s free clinics in Norristown Pottstown or Willow Grove. All the information residents and first responders need to access the county’s naloxone program, including registration for the free events and a video on how to use Narcan, a naloxone nasal spray, can now be found on a single website, www. montcopa.org/3068/Howto-Get-Naloxone.
Additionally, Fisher spoke about Lights of Hope, a special event to remember those lost to addiction and celebrate those in recovery, held outside the county courthouse last month and the department’s new initiatives focusing on assessment and intervention for youth, those incarcerated or on probation, and the homeless.
The office of drug and alcohol is also working on a “warm handoff” initiative with local hospitals wherein hospital staff works with people admitted for overdoses to refer them to drug treatment centers instead of releasing them without support to deal with their addiction.
In an effort to better connect county residents with essential services and information the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Community Connections now has a central number to reach its navigator/advocates or Navicates: 610-278-3522
Navicates are “skilled human service professionals” trained and qualified to work with residents and point them in the right direction to access an array of services including veterans affairs, affordable taxes, recycling, childcare, addiction, aging and adults services and more.
Community Connections Administrator Elizabeth DiArcangelo explained that the last four digits of the new number — 3552, represent the first letters of foster, link, advocate and connect; an easy way to remember how to reach the office’s Navicates.
With a more all-encompassing focus following a departmental merger with the office of aging and adult services, the new format allows for offices in Norristown, Pottstown, Lansdale and Willow Grove to provide coordinated equitable distribution of regional calls, answer more live calls or return calls within 24 hours, and gives Navicates more time to spend engaging with residents for a more holistic approach, DiArcangelo said.
The community connections office is also offering person-centered counseling, a process of follow-ups and assessment designed to better resolve residents’ issues.
In other business, the commissioner’s unanimously approved contracts for municipal planning with Lansdale Borough and the Lower Merion School District.
The $68,607 Lansdale contract will be combined with matching funds to further implement the borough’s comprehensive plan, including a parking and circulation study of Moyer’s Road Park, geographic information system maps and general services.
The county will also provide $1,768 of the total $7,070 cost of a full study demographic analysis of the Lower Merion School District.
The commissioner’s also entered into an agreement to repair and sell a parcel of county-owned property on Seminary Street in Pennsburg. The small lot runs between two houses and has a sinkhole-prone storm drain beneath it. For just under $7,600 the county will pay borough public property staff to repair the site, paving the way for its sale and removal from the repository list of the Montgomery County Tax Claim Bureau.
The commissioners also approved an advertisement on of behalf of the assets and infrastructure department for the painting and repair of a large barn in Upper Schuylkill Valley Park and a request for information on behalf of the Southeast PA Regional Task Force for automatic license plate readers.
Contracts of note included an additional $240,000 requested by the planning commission to amend the $760,000 contract awarded to Boles, Smyth Associates inc. of Philadelphia for redesign of a the portion of the Chester Valley Trail adjacent to the DeKalb Street Bridge in Bridgeport and an additional $78,000 for unforeseen field scope changes required to complete the reconstruction of County Bridge #231 over Perkiomen Creek in Hanover Township. The original contract totaled $1,048,000.
All Montgomery County bids and RFPs are available on the county’s public purchase website, www. montcopa.org.Public-Purchase-Opportunities.