Chesco Color 5K raises $38K to fight opioid crisis

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Chester County officials and senior staff at the announcement of funds raised by the 2017 Chester County Color 5K. From left to right: Commissioner Terence Farrell, District Attorney Tom Hogan, Health Director Jeanne Casner, Commissioner Michelle Kichline, Human Services Director Kim Bowman, Stephenie Stevens of Chester County Community Foundation and Commissioner Kathi Cozzone.

As part of Chester County’s collaborative approach to fighting the opioid and heroin crisis, District Attorney Tom Hogan and members of the Chester County Overdose Prevention Task Force provided an update for the County Commissioners at Wednesday’s Sunshine meeting work session.  The presentation noted the progress made in Chester County’s battle against opioid and heroin addiction since the formation of the task force, and was followed by an announcement by Commissioner Kichline that the November 2017  Chester County Color 5K event raised $38,000. 

“Last year, Chester County recorded 133 accidental drug overdose deaths, which represents a 35 percent increase over 2016,” said Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline.  “Events like the Color 5K help us to raise awareness – and money – so that the recommendations that come out of our Drug Overdose Prevention Task Force, to fight this battle on many different fronts, can be funded.”

The $38,000 raised for the second Color 5K event represents a 50 percent increase in monies raised at the previous year’s Color 5K.  More than 900 people took part and the money will be used to fund the County’s new Community Outreach and Prevention Education (COPE) initiative.

COPE is an innovative program that will better ensure opioid overdose survivors being treated in local emergency departments are personally encouraged to enter treatment. An on-call Engagement Team that includes a project coordinator and certified recovery specialist will provide one-to-one support in the hospital emergency department as well as post-emergency department discharge for opiate overdose survivors and their family or friends.  COPE will also provide overdose prevention information and outreach to first responders, hospital staff and the survivors’ family and friends.  It will begin as a pilot in Brandywine Hospital and Chester County Hospital later this year.

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 (more than 40 different agencies in total) – 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 County’s COPE warm handoff program.

“We were one of the first counties to put together a task force and take this interdisciplinary approach to the problem of opioid and heroin addiction,” noted Hogan.  “What do we do as a task force?  We incarcerate the heroin dealers.  We educate students, their parents, and doctors – who after five years of education are now fully on board with medical representation on the task force.  We prevent future drug problems, through the Drug Dropbox Program that takes drugs out of circulation.  We save lives, through administering naloxone on the street and following up with drug court to divert addicts out of the criminal justice system.  And now, we treat the addiction through our own COPE warm handoff program.”

Hogan announced that more than five tons of drugs were deposited in the Drug Dropboxes located in Chester County police stations during 2017.  He also noted that for the first time in the last 20 years, the number of opioid prescriptions is down nationwide, and the number of pills per prescription has decreased.

“Many of the people who took part in our Color 5K have loved ones who are currently suffering from addiction, lost family or friends to addiction, or were there because they have gone through the cycle of addiction and treatment and come out the other side as recovering addicts,” Kichline said. “To all of them I say thank you for your support. We are doing all that we can to make sure this opioid and heroin scourge is beaten.”

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