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DA and Delaware County Heroin Task Force launch website

The Delaware County Heroin Task Force is expanding its outreach to the community through a new website, brochure and educational programs available to schools in the county this fall.

The Task Force was organized in September 2012 by District Attorney Jack Whelan and Delaware County Council to raise awareness about the epidemic of prescription drug and heroin abuse impacting the nation and the county. Over the course of 10 months, the Task Force has launched several initiatives and formed a broader Heroin Task Force Coalition in response to interest from members of the community. That Coalition, which includes parents, health care professionals, educators, service providers and other concerned citizens, will support the mission of the Task Force and provide grassroots input on the problem of heroin abuse.

In June, members of the Heroin Task Force met with U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and briefed the senator on its efforts to combat the heroin epidemic. Sen. Toomey applauded the work of the Task Force and offered the support of his office. “We are moving forward on many fronts to combat the devastation of illicit drugs, especially heroin and prescription opiates that are abused,” said County Council Vice Chairman Mario J. Civera Jr., a member of the Heroin Task Force. “We are determined to protect our children, our families and our communities from the devastating effects of drug addiction.”

Civera invites parents, educators, young people, medical professionals and all residents to visit the Heroin Task Force website to learn more about this important issue. People can learn about the dangers of heroin and the work of the Task Force through the following resources: “The Truth About Heroin” website: The website can be accessed through the Delaware County government website at www.co.delaware.pa.us. Click on Heroin Task Force under the News and Events. The site includes information on prevention, treatment and recovery, brochures that can be downloaded, and key contacts for treatment programs. The website also includes a library of press releases on news related to Task Force activities.

“Realities of Prescription Drugs and Heroin Abuse” presentation: The Task Force and the District Attorney’s Office offer a program titled “Realities of Prescription Drugs and Heroin Abuse” that can be presented to students or community groups detailing the addictive nature and deadly consequences of these drugs.

One of our objectives is to speak directly and candidly with parents and students about the addictive nature of these powerful and readily available drugs,” said DA Whelan said. “When it comes to heroin, you are either addicted or dead and we have to get this message to our children before they go down that road.”  The program was first presented at an educational forum for the public on May 9 at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center at Upper Darby High School. That was followed by presentations at the Drexel Hill and Beverly Hills middle schools. School or community groups interested in scheduling a presentation can contact the District Attorney’s Office at 610-891-4163.

Informational brochure: The Task Force makes available a brochure that details prevention programs, treatment options and recovery information. It also provides information on what heroin is how it is used and how it affects people. The brochure points out that “Heroin can kill you,” and that there were 50-heroin related deaths in Delaware County in 2012.

Law enforcement: Another goal of the Heroin Task Force is to reduce drug-related crime through law enforcement. In May, District Attorney Whelan was joined by County Council and the Task Force to announce the arrest of an alleged “pill mill” doctor in Lansdowne who is charged with more than 1,000 criminal counts for distributing controlled substances out of his home and office.

At the press conference announcing the arrest, DA Whelan said: “This doctor is no different than an individual standing on the corner (selling drugs.) In fact, it’s worse because he’s doing so under the guise of his medical license. The District Attorney also issued a press release warning that the deadly synthetic narcotic, Fentanyl, has made its way to the streets of Delaware County. Delaware County Medical Examiner Dr. Frederic Hellman reported to the District Attorney that two drug-related deaths in May were the result of an overdose from Fentanyl. “We particularly want parents to educate themselves about this epidemic that is impacting our children. We don’t want people to put their heads in the sand and assume this can’t happen in their family, their school or their community,” said Council Vice Chair Civera. “The abuse of prescription drugs, that leads to heroin use, is happening everywhere, and it’s happening to good kids who make life-threatening decisions.”

heroin task force table

Senior Medical Advisor Dr. George Avetian, County Council Vice Chairman Mario J. Civera Jr., District Attorney Jack Whelan who heads the Task Force, and Councilman Dave White, Council’s liaison to the Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health, Division of Drug and Alcohol