Of­fi­cials boost fund­ing to fight opi­oid cri­sis

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

WEST CHESTER » The Chester County com­mis­sion­ers re­cently pre­sented a check for $20,000 to Vince Brown, di­rec­tor of the county’s De­part­ment of Drug and Al­co­hol Ser­vices, as fur­ther en­dorse­ment of the com­mit­ment to fight the opi­oid and heroin cri­sis in the county.

The $20,000, which is part of the com­mis­sion­ers’ ap­pro­pri­a­tions funds, will sup­port the county’s new Com­mu­nity Outreach and Pre­ven­tion Ed­u­ca­tion (COPE) ini­tia­tive, borne out of the Chester County Over­dose Pre­ven­tion Task Force.

COPE will pro­vide one-to-one sup­port for over­dose sur­vivors and their fam­i­lies and friends; pro­vide over­dose pre­ven­tion in-

for­ma­tion and outreach to first re­spon­ders, hos­pi­tal staff, fam­ily mem­bers and friends; and im­por­tantly, pro­vide ex­pe­dited ad­mis­sion into detox and a re­view of all treat­ment op­tions for over­dose sur­vivors who agree to treat­ment.

Penn­syl­va­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Shapiro re­cently vis­ited Chester County to dis­cuss the cri­sis with state law­mak­ers, mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials and law en­force­ment of­fi­cers.

Shapiro told the panel that the cri­sis is tax­ing law en­force­ment and first re­spon­ders in a sig­nif­i­cant way. He said po­lice some­times re­turn to ad­min­is­ter Nar­can to the same per­son mul­ti­ple times. There were 4,642 drug-re­lated deaths in Penn­syl­va­nia last year, and if noth­ing is done, that num­ber will sky­rocket, he said.

“We’ve ar­rested 844 drug deal­ers since I took of­fice eight months ago. We could do that ev­ery day on and on, but at the end of the day it’s not go­ing to solve it,” he said. “Pre­scrip­tion drugs are the root cause of so many of th­ese prob­lems.”

Chester County’s com­mit­ment to tack­ling the opi­oid and heroin epi­demic is ev­i­dent in the in­ten­sive health, ed­u­ca­tion, treat­ment and law en­force­ment mea­sures co­or­di­nated by the Over­dose Pre­ven­tion Task Force.

“The opi­oid and heroin cri­sis re­mains a very big con­cern that we, as a county, have been co­op­er­a­tively ad­dress­ing for some time,” said Chester County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Chair­woman Michelle Kich­line. “We’re talk­ing to doc­tors about pre­scrip­tion prac­tices, we’re un­der­tak­ing law en­force­ment mea­sures that make it harder to source the drugs in the county, we’re ed­u­cat­ing young peo­ple to try and pre­vent greater use in the fu­ture, and we’re work­ing with emer­gency re­spon­ders and hos­pi­tals to pro­vide the right treat­ment op­tions for over­dose sur­vivors.

“But the sad fact is that this aw­ful epi­demic is claim­ing more lives, and we have al­ready sur­passed our death toll for last year,” Kich­line added. “Com­pared with other ar­eas of the state or na­tion, Chester County may have fewer peo­ple abus­ing opi­oids and heroin, but deaths re­lated to over­dose are up 38 per­cent in Chester County for the first half of this year com­pared to 2016, and as of the end of Septem­ber, 103 lives were lost to over­dose here — deaths that most likely be­gan with a pre­scrip­tion for opi­oid pain and ended with buy­ing heroin on the street.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Chester County’s Color 5K in 2016 raised $25,000 to help com­bat the opi­oid and heroin cri­sis.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Chester County Com­mis­sion­ers Ter­ence Farrell, far left, Michelle Kich­line, sec­ond from left, and Kathi Coz­zone, far right, present a check for $20,000 to Vince Brown, di­rec­tor of the county’s De­part­ment of Drug and Al­co­hol Ser­vices as fur­ther en­dorse­ment of the com­mit­ment to fight the opi­oid and heroin cri­sis in the county.

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