As part of Chester County’s team effort to fight the opioid and heroin crisis, the County Commissioners, District Attorney Tom Hogan and members of the Chester County Overdose Prevention Task Force presented checks for $5,000 to representatives from all five of the county’s hospitals at this week’s public sunshine meeting. The funds, earmarked to support each hospital’s warm hand-off program, will help to ensure that those who have experienced an overdose are referred directly to treatment and counseling, to begin on a path to physical, mental and emotional healing.
“Today’s presentation to our hospitals is the culmination of a county-wide effort that recognizes that the opioid and heroin crisis is serious and it’s not going away,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline. “It’s not enough to attack this problem from a law enforcement standpoint, but also through education, counseling and collaboration with hospitals and community organizations. The use of Narcan saves lives, but if you aren’t able to give addicts the tools to recover – the warm hand-off to the right treatment and counseling – then this disease will not be stopped.”
Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan noted, “This donation is seed money for our outstanding Chester County hospitals to initiate a ‘warm hand-off’ protocol. Our police administer Narcan to a person who is overdosing, literally saving a life. Our hospitals then treat and stabilize those who have overdosed. But too often, addicts just want to walk out of the hospital and go back to the drugs that almost killed them. The warm hand-off protocol is a way to have the hospitals, volunteers, and County agencies work together to gently re-direct those who have just been saved and get them into rehab and counseling. We want to fix this problem, not one save at a time, but permanently.”
Chester County’s Overdose Prevention Task Force – which includes representatives from the Commissioners’ and District Attorney’s offices, as well as the County’s Health Department and Department of Drug & Alcohol Services, law enforcement and community organizations – serves as a model for all of Pennsylvania in the fight against opioid and heroin addiction. The task force approach includes the arrest and prosecution of drug dealers, diverting addicts into treatment and counseling through Drug Court, educating children and their parents through the Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE) program, taking drugs off the streets through the drop box initiative, working with doctors and health care providers on opioid prescribing practices – and now, the warm hand-off program with hospitals.
Chester County’s Color 5K, held last November in West Chester, served to raise awareness of the crisis and Chester County’s work towards combatting it, as well as to raise funds for the warm hand-off program. More than 770 people of all ages participated in the event, which, together with generous sponsorships, raised $25,000. The second Color 5K is scheduled for Saturday morning, November 4, 2017.
Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said: “I have often said that there is nothing wrong in Chester County that can’t be fixed by what is right in Chester County and this is a perfect example of the good things we can do when we work together. I know that we won’t ‘cure’ addiction forever by our actions, but by working together in this way we can and will make a significant dent in the level of the crisis here in the County.”
Commissioner Terence Farrell added: “I recently attended our National Association of Counties meeting in Washington DC, and thousands of county officials from across the nation filled a large room to talk about the opioid and heroin crisis. What was evident in that seminar was that people were commenting on the reasons for the problem, could cite examples – often personal – and note the growth of the crisis. But Chester County was one of just a few counties doing something positive – like the Color 5K and the programs initiated by the Task Force.”
Photo caption: Lisa Kazanjian, Director of Marketing and Physician Outreach, Brandywine Hospital; Diana Kane, M.D., Department of Emergency Medicine, Chester County Hospital; Kyle Finucane, Lead Emergency Department Social Worker, Chester County Hospital; Betty Brennan, Director of the Emergency Services Department, Chester County Hospital; Kevin O’Brien, Senior Vice President for Development, Chester County Hospital; Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline; Matt Shelak, Interim CEO, Jennersville Regional Hospital; Steve Tullman, CEO of Phoenixville Hospital; Barbara O’Connor, Director of Community Health Education & Outreach, Phoenixville Hospital; and Lori Cunningham, Director of Marketing & Public Relations, Phoenixville Hospital; back row, left to right, Matthew Magargal, Vice-President, Patient Services, Paoli Hospital; Vince Brown, Executive Director, Chester County Department of Drug & Alcohol Services; County Commissioner Terence Farrell; County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone; and Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan.