50 lives saved with Narcan in Dauphin County
HARRISBURG, Pa. –The lives of 50 overdose victims were saved since last October thanks to efforts by the Dauphin County Commissioners and District Attorney to ensure police and first responders had access to the life-saving drug Narcan. In Central Pennsylvania, Capital Blue Cross, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association has provided funding for the drug.
All county police departments, as well as ambulance crews, probation and work release officers and other first responders have ready access to the overdose reversal drug, naloxone. Additionally, the county’s Drug & Alcohol Services are making Narcan available to friends and family members of addicts who are not able to get the drug.
To help families learn about how to get help for loved ones, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13 the county will be holding a town hall meeting at the Lower Dauphin Middle School, 251 Quarry Rd, Hummelstown, 17036. It is one of a series of communities the county has sponsored over the past year.
“Too many families are losing their loved ones to heroin and opiate abuse and we are committed doing all we can to end these senseless deaths,’’ said Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III, who oversees the county’s Human Services. “We have made sure that all first responders can save the life of someone dying from an overdose and that is a critical first step to battling this epidemic.’’
District Attorney Ed Marsico and Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Gary Tennis, both thanked Capital Blue Cross for providing funding to provide the Narcan for police. Marsico said the Commonwealth and the nation are seeing both increasingly pure forms of heroin and fentanyl. Marsico and Tennis expressed their gratitude to the Dauphin County Chiefs of Police for tackling this problem.
Harrisburg Police Officers Brandon Braughler and Cynthia Kreiser have saved 8 people with naloxone. They each detailed their experience in using the drug to save a life.
Marsico said the fact that police used Narcan to save 50 overdose victims since October underscores the danger posed by heroin and other opiates authorities are seeing on the street.
“The heroin being sold today is stronger – and therefore more lethal – than anything we’ve seen in the past,’’ Marsico said. “As law enforcers, we are committed to punishing criminals and saving lives, which is why making sure police have Narcan is as important as prosecuting the people selling this poison.’’
Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Gary Tennis said Dauphin County is on the forefront of finding ways to combat drug abuse and save lives.
“When Pennsylvania last year cleared the way for first responders and all Pennsylvanians to have access to naloxone, Dauphin County seized the initiative to make sure this life-saving drug was available to all those who needed it,’’ Tennis said. “Dauphin County is also on the forefront of ensuring all those who need addiction treatment and counseling receive these vital services.’’
Commission Chairman Jeff Haste said heroin and opiate addiction his families from all walks of life.
“From urban to suburban, from rich to poor, heroin and drug abuse and the pain it causes touches all our communities,’’ Haste said. “We are doing everything we can to create an environment where someone struggling with addiction can come forward, without fear or shame, and seek help.’’
Commissioner Mike Pries agreed, saying efforts to expand drug treatment helps everyone.
“We know that a majority of crimes are committed by those either trying to get drugs or the money to buy drugs,’’ Pries said. “Every time we help someone kick their addiction, we improve the safety and quality of life for our entire community.’’
Among the other steps being taken to combat the drug epidemic:
– Adding case managers who will work non-regular hours to respond to overdose scenes and attempt to convince users to voluntarily enter in-patient treatment at that moment to ensure they get the help they need. The county is also following up with any overdose survivors who are not contacted at the time of the incident.
– Inmates released from Dauphin County Prison will be registered in treatment programs so they can continue the progress they are making without interruption.
– The county is expanding the availability of medical treatments which manages opioid dependence, including methadone, suboxone and vivitrol, which is also used to treat alcohol dependence.
– Working with area treatment providers, such as Gaudenzia Common Ground, to reduce the waiting list for treatment, especially detox beds.
For more information or to get help, call Dauphin County Drug and Alcohol Services at 717-635-2255. The line is manned 24/7 and someone always answers.