which offers some encouragement in that fewer people are dying here from overdose.
However, a recent research project from our office shows the number of overall overdose incidents reported to a 911 dispatcher is up.
We submitted this editorial to LNP, which was recently published in their Sept. 9 edition. We thank LNP for allowing our voice on the matter.
Here is the piece which we submitted; it includes that concerning overdose rate data:
The fact that fewer people are dying in Lancaster County this year from drug overdose is some good news amidst the devastating opioid epidemic which has already taken far too many lives, broken too many families, hurt businesses, and continues to consume tremendous resources.
The sobering reality is, however, the number of overdose incidents in the county is not only not declining, but actually still on the rise and this is certainly not a time to celebrate or reduce our efforts.
My office, with great assistance from Lancaster County-Wide Communications, recently did an analysis of all emergency overdoses, as reported to a 911 dispatch center.
The review shows over the most recent five-month period there was an average of 163 overdoses each month. In the preceding five-month period, there were only 140 overdoses per month, on average.
That means, on average, emergency-responders are being dispatched to six more overdoses per week in Lancaster County than they were five months ago. Thus, their critical resources are being taxed that much more despite the fact fewer have died.
As a result, claims of progress need to be tempered and we must make sure that we are applying a strong multi-faceted strategy which combines education, prevention, enforcement, and treatment because there is no magic-bullet solution.
To that end, my office has been focused on solutions and have been at the forefront of this fight for years while also realizing this is far from over.
In 2014, my office, using a Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association grant, was one of the first in the state to place the overdose antidote drug Narcan in nearly every police vehicle in the county.
Non-police emergency-responders had been carrying it for years, but the police had not. Since then, my office secured a second grant which allows for expanded distribution of Narcan to EMS, fire and police personnel, and other trained first-responders.
There is no doubt Narcan has kept the death rate down and we owe a tremendous amount to our EMS agencies for leading the way in trainings and use.
Law-enforcement is joined on the front lines by many other groups, programs, initiatives and agencies, including:
- Recovery and addiction professionals doing such difficult work in helping those in the epidemic’s firm grasp.
- Grass-roots groups - such as ASAP Lititz, Donegal Substance Abuse Alliance, and Ephrata Cares - making real impact with minimal financial resources.
- LGH and all health-care professionals, who are constantly in the middle of this epidemic.
- Workgroups, like Project Lazarus, who meet regularly to discuss trends and solutions
- Individuals in recovery, and their families, who have been brave enough to publicly share their stories for the benefit of those in addiction.
- Lancaster County-Wide Communications, who have consistently worked with us for years.
And there are many others.
In our role, my office continues to do all we can to identify and arrest predatory dealers then hold them fully accountable in court by seeking state prison for heroin dealers.
We have built strong partnerships with municipal leaders and within law-enforcement circles.
We are a recognized leader in the state for aggressively prosecuting those dealers whose products led to deaths.
The Lancaster County Drug Task Force and police focused on the drug trade employ the most modern tactics in keeping up with the ever-evolving dealing of heroin, fentanyl, prescription medication, and synthetic drugs.
But the overall battle won’t be won with arrests. To that end, I have expanded the role of my office to include community-outreach initiatives aimed at education and prevention in our schools and communities. In fact, in 2016, I created the first ever Outreach Coordinator position in my office to focus on these efforts full time.
Knowing that the path to opioid addiction often starts with prescription-drug abuse, my office has distributed about 3,300 prescription lockboxes, at no taxpayer cost, to interested agencies and individuals.
Further, I continue to work with the PDAA and key stakeholders to advocate for long-term treatment, because it is the single most effective way to reduce demand and thus distribution.
Taking sole credit for any strides we may have made as a county would be improper and unfair to the many others whom have taken on this epidemic. In that vein, as we reflect and recognize those who have already worked so hard to make important strides in a mammoth task, we must keep the perspective that much more needs to be done on every front.
Everyone and every agency simply must work together today in order to save more lives tomorrow.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @BrettHambright