Franklin County community dedicates officer to deal with opioid crisis

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WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, FRANKLIN COUNTY, Pa. -- Few communities in Pennsylvania are immune from the opioid crisis.

One Franklin County community is taking action with a plan to fight the drug problem, that includes giving up one of its police officers.

Many places such as Hagerstown, Baltimore, and Harrisburg radiate from Washington Township like spokes of a wheel, which Washington Township officials said puts it at the center of the heroin epidemic.

Washington Township is a community that has a small town feel, but with a big city problem.

Washington Township assistant township manager Jeff Geesaman said "we have to look at this, if not, the number one service that we need to try to help our people out with, it has to be close to the top."

Washington Township board of supervisors chairman Stewart McCleaf said "the biggest pressing issue right now as we see it, is the drug use and the fatalities that occur because of it."

Township officials recently met with the Franklin County district attorney who laid out some sobering statistics.

"With the Narcan that's being administered by our police department, our EMS, we feel the numbers are way too high, and they're the success stories, the unsuccessful stories are the ones where we don't get there in time," Geesaman said.

In the first four months of the year, township police have already handled 24 cases of administering Narcan to save people from drug overdoses.

"When you have statistics like that, and you have the district attorney standing there telling you 'hey, this is a serious situation,' I think it's incumbent upon us as a board of supervisors to act on it. And, that's exactly what we're doing," McCleaf said.

The township is dedicating one of its ten full-time police officers to work on the Franklin County Drug Task Force.

"They obviously reach out to a larger area than what Washington Township does. We realize we have to go in to these other areas to try to help eliminate the source of the drugs coming into Washington Township," Geesaman said.

"I think it's more important than a cop going out here and writing traffic tickets for stop sign violations or this or that, which that is important, I don't want to lessen that aspect of it, but by the same token, when a person dies, that has to be more important," McCleaf said.

"A small town like this, you lose five people, to drug overdoses, you've touched somebody. You've touched just about everybody in the community," Geesaman said.

The officer's shift that will be given up to work with the district attorney's office and the Franklin County Drug Task Force will not go completely uncovered.

"We've been in touch with the Pennsylvania State Police, and they have assured us that they will augment us whenever they can," McCleaf said.