The frantic calls from Middletown-area residents to 911 have been alarmingly high in the past year.
Often the panicked call is not reported as “a suspected drug overdose.” Instead, it is logged as a “cardiac arrest,” an “unresponsive person,” or a loved one “not breathing.” The repeated culprit is a light white powder. The hundreds of medical emergencies it has generated in Middletown and beyond in the past year alone turn a spotlight on two shocking truths: the next heroin fix may be a user’s last, and despite this fatal possibility, the heroin epidemic rages on, taking most users in the prime of their lives.
The loss of so many young lives in Middletown and throughout the county has forced police, the district attorney, and the coroner to repeatedly warn the public about the Russian roulette that is injecting, smoking or snorting substances cut with any number of unknown toxins.
A recent rash of deaths underscores that heroin users have no idea what they are getting in each bag of heroin they buy, how much will be too much, or how hard it will be to stop this toxic habit once it starts. When the heroin “switch” turns on, it doesn’t just turn off with one good-faith flip.
Dauphin County is attacking this high-stakes scourge in multiple ways, and it can’t happen soon enough. Drug overdoses take the lives of seven Pennsylvanians a day, on average. In each strategy we are pursuing, we are matching the aggressive nature of our enemy and venturing right into the dark heart of the action. Our newly launched strategies revolve around these five key actions:
1. Immediate intervention: Two new “mobile case managers’’ are being hired and soon will be on call 24/7 to respond to the scene of an overdose, whether it is the hospital emergency room, a bar, a home or anywhere else in the county. The goal is to guide, support and encourage overdose survivors to voluntarily enter inpatient treatment starting at that critical moment, rather than letting them leave a hospital and return to their addiction.
2. Follow up with overdose survivors: For those we do not see at the time of their overdose, we will be mobilizing county-trained, certified recovery specialists.
3. Narcan training: We are training probation officers, county staff, and the community to administer the overdose reversal drug, naloxone — which goes by the brand name Narcan — to reverse overdoses. Thanks to the district attorney’s leadership, nearly all police departments in the county are now carrying naloxone.
(Narcan, which can be either inhaled or injected, blocks the effects of opioids on the brain and restores breathing within two to eight minutes without harming other vital organs.)
Additionally, we will be making Narcan available to friends and families of people suffering from the disease of addiction and training them in its use. Narcan is also available at all CVS pharmacies without a prescription.
4. Continuing treatment for those released from prison: We are ensuring that once inmates are released, they are continually in a treatment program to continue the progress they made behind bars. Additionally, the county is expanding the availability of medication-assisted treatments for opioid addiction that stabilize the patient and curb cravings, including methadone, buphrenorphine (suboxone), and vivitrol. Vivitrol, or long-acting naltrexone is not an opiate, rather it is an opiate blocker and can also be used to treat alcohol dependence. These medications show great promise when partnered with clinically appropriate drug and alcohol treatment.
5. Reduced waiting period for treatment: Not just in Dauphin County, but statewide, there is a long waiting list for treatment, especially for detox beds. Fortunately, providers such as Gaudenzia Common Ground are increasing bed capacity, making slow incremental progress. We are working directly with emergency room doctors at hospitals such as Pinnacle Health to ensure immediate access to treatment.
Education remains a vital tool in our efforts. We have held multiple town hall meetings, talking to more than 200 concerned citizens. Drug and alcohol counselors are also now located in every middle school and high school in the county. With each of these actions, we hope to chip away at the stigma of addiction.
Our message is simple: If you suffer from the disease of addiction, you are not weak, or stupid. You need help.
Treatment works. You can get better. We urge those in need to let the county be the bridge to treatment for you or your loved one. The county phone number is 717-635-2254. We can even help you navigate your insurance for substance abuse help. In the heroin war, there is no magic “fix.” But, in Dauphin County, trained and caring helpers wait for you at every point in the journey toward recovery, ready to help you take on the enemy.
Jeff Haste (left), Mike Pries (center) and George Hartwick III are Dauphin County's commissioners.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 July 2016 15:32
I am writing in response to the article in the Press And Journal on June 29 about the fate of the Elks Theatre.
It’s a shame that the fate of an old, historic entertainment venue that has been the staple of the scene for over 100 years has to be used in the political games of the borough council. It’s bad enough that the council has destroyed the downtown atmosphere, to cater to outside interests that want to kill this town. No, now they want to use the fate of the Elks to justify their wasteful, arrogant use of money that could be used to elevate Middletown.
By killing the Elks Theatre, they kill a historic part of a once-proud town. Many of the residents of Middletown grew up in the once-great movie house, along with their own kids. Kill the Elks, and you kill what’s left of any heart and soul Middletown has left.
Council member Ian Reddinger doesn’t want to continue the Elks. He has stated that movies are a dying business, that people don’t go to movies anymore. That shows you the ignorance and arrogance of the members of the council. He hasn’t gone to a movie in over three years. So in his opinion, the movie industry is all but dead. Goes to show you what a blind man can see.
He does not speak for the industry; he doesn’t speak for the majority of Middletown’s residents. He certainly does not speak for me. It’s just his opinion, as ignorant as it may be. The movie industry is a thriving business; billions of dollars are made every year. Before Reddinger speaks about something, he should know a little bit about the subject first.
It was hoped with the removal of Chris McNamara things would turn around and get better. It seems we were wrong. Council should be ashamed.
While it’s true that the Elks is in need of some repair and renovation, it’s worth the time and money to bring the Elks back to its glory. Do what you will with the rest of Middletown: In the end you will see the error of your ways. But heed the pleas of the citizens of Middletown and keep the Elks Theatre in business. With the right people running it, it can make money and bring in business to Middletown. Replace it with condos, pot shops or beer bars, and you just hasten the death of Middletown. Be careful what you wish for.
Middletown is a great little town, and it can be better. But by ignoring the will and input of the citizens who live in Middletown, who work here, who play here, who love this town more than council does, you awaken something that you cannot stop. Look what’s happened in England with the Brexit vote.
Power to the people, anger of the people. That same thing can happen in a little town like Middletown. When is enough enough? To those in power, look around you and open your eyes. What happens when a revolution begins, a movement takes hold? Do you want to find out? What happens after you build what you want to build, and no one shows up?
Andres Garcia III, Middletown
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 July 2016 16:23
These thoughts go out to those who have responded to the “Helping hands for those in need” article. The responses focused on who is to blame for the Katrina disaster in New Orleans, rather than understanding the point of the article, which was that there is still a need for compassion and assistance in a city 11 years after the storm.
No matter who is to blame, the fact is that the disaster did occur and the fallout from it still continues 11 years later. The need to help people to regain hope and get back into their homes still remains a significant challenge, especially in the 9th Ward.
Our news media typically move onto more recent tragedies and ceases its reporting, causing residents such as those in NOLA to be out of sight and, therefore, out of mind. However, the suffering continues for many residents.
There are still residents who have little hope of returning to their homes without some help from outside resources. While in the neighborhoods, we do not hear these seeming abandoned people casting blame for the disaster which has taken the lives of family and friends, and removed them from their homes.
We can always look to and search for the source of a problem, disaster or “storm in life,” but this does little to help our brother or sisters in need.
The time spent on this short-term mission trip was to help a forgotten city in need.
One of the objectives of these trips is to connect and build community with those thinking they are forgotten, and to assist with reconstructing home(s) and showing the love of Jesus, by being his hands and feet in humble service.
-- Dave Leese, Hummelstown
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 July 2016 16:16