10/29/2015 - Delaware County Police lead in the fight against heroin deaths
Tinicum, PA -- Pennsylvanians are dying every day from a drug overdose, and authorities in Delaware County believe it has been critical to have naloxone in the hands of police who are often the first on the scene of an overdose situation. Commonly known as Narcan, naloxone is a medication that can reverse an overdose that is caused by an opioid drug.
Today District Attorney Jack Whelan announced Delaware County police have saved 135 lives in nearly one year through the administration of nasal naloxone, given to those experiencing an opioid overdose. Whelan made the announcement at a luncheon ceremony held to honor police for their heroic actions in saving lives and to recognize the success of the law enforcement naloxone program and the efforts of the Delaware County Heroin Task Force.
“We have outstanding police officers here in Delaware County, many who consider naloxone just another tool to perform the job they are sworn to do,” said District Attorney Jack Whelan. “However, to us, and the families of those experiencing an overdose, they are heroes. Every day, they are literally bringing people back to life, who will hopefully seek treatment to overcome their addiction.”
Delaware County was the first county in Pennsylvania to implement a county-wide nasal naloxone program for law enforcement when the law was enacted on Nov. 29, 2014, and has since become a model for the state. This public safety initiative comes at a time when people continue to struggle with heroin and prescription drug addiction in Delaware County and across the country. As more people become addicted to prescription painkillers, they turn to cheaper and readily available heroin. Heroin and opioid overdose are the leading cause of accidental death in Pennsylvania, killing more individuals than those involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents. Since the start of 2015, there have been 77 heroin-related deaths in Delaware County according to the Delaware County medical examiner.
District Attorney Jack Whelan noted that the success of the naloxone initiative along with other efforts to reduce heroin use was made possible through the partnership between law enforcement, the community, coalition members, behavioral health members and educators that is exemplified by the Delaware County Heroin Task Force which was formed in September 2012.
The Task Force was created to combat the growing issue of prescription drug and heroin use after county officials saw an alarming rate of deaths in the county. Over the course of three years, 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, meets monthly and supports the objectives of the Task Force and provides grassroots input on the problem of heroin abuse.
Along with the law enforcement component to reduce drug-related crime, District Attorney Whelan noted the importance of prevention through education and awareness. He said that parents, teachers and community leaders play an important role in educating youth about the dangers of prescription drugs which is why he formed a partnership with the Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education (NOPE) Task Force Funded by the District Attorney’s Office and Delaware County Council, NOPE has reached over 26,600 middle and high school students, in addition to 3,500 community members.
Tonight at 7:00 p.m. Delaware County NOPE Task Force is holding its 6th annual Candlelight Vigil at Widener University’s Alumni Auditorium in Chester. Attendees are encouraged to bring a framed photograph of a loved one to be placed on the remembrance table during the vigil or upload the photograph to the NOPE Task Force online memorial wall.
Experts warn that parents may not notice that their teenagers, family members or visitors may be sneaking pills out of outdated prescription bottles. People can reduce the risk by securing their medicine cabinets and reducing to only current, unexpired medications, over-the-counter or otherwise.
“In Delaware County, we are proactive and wanted to give residents a safe, convenient way to dispose of drugs any time throughout the year,” said Delaware County Councilman Michael Culp, member of the Heroin Task Force. “We know that these prescription drugs are the target of theft and misuse. Statistics tell us that kids who use drugs say they start by taking a prescription drug non-medically, and they get them from the medicine cabinets of their parents, their grandparents and friends. We want to keep these drugs out of the wrong hands, especially young people,” said Culp.
Delaware County residents can dispose of their unused or expired prescription drugs from their medicine cabinets at any of the 40 permanent drop boxes that are located at police departments across the county. To date, more than 7,500 pounds of drugs have been collected and destroyed by the Delaware County District Attorney’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID).
For locations of the 40 Delaware County medicine drop boxes, visit www.co.delaware.pa.us.