The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania has announced the formation of a Drug Overdose Prevention and Education Advisory Board. An inaugural meeting drew participants representing a wide cross-section of the community, including elected officials, law enforcement, healthcare, drug and alcohol treatment, and parents.
“The conversation in the room exemplified a shared passion for a subject that rarely gets the attention it requires,” said Donald Nasshorn, magisterial district judge and chairperson of the Council’s Overdose Prevention & Education Project. “It’s a tough subject to bring up. Our collective action, at the very least, can stimulate a ripple effect of dialogue in the community.”
According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), a federal public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related hospital emergency department visits and drug-related deaths investigated by medical examiners and coroners, Bucks County saw 136 drug-related deaths in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available. In that group, opioids were the number-one cause of death, and more than half of the deaths were individuals under the age of 34.
For 2011, the Bucks County Coroner’s Office reported that 66% of deaths with toxicology investigations were directly related to drugs; of those, 37% of those deaths were people under the age of 30. The drugs most often involved were oxycodone, Xanax, heroin, codeine and morphine.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Statistics, unintentional overdose deaths have quadrupled in Pennsylvania in the last decade. Center for Disease Control statistics place Pennsylvania among the top 10 states in the nation for fatal overdoses.
The Council has researched the problem, investigated drug overdose prevention initiatives in other jurisdictions and developed outreach materials that can be targeted to specific audiences, such as first responders, school districts, civic organizations and others. The advisory board is open to participation from throughout the community.
“Anyone interested is more than welcome,” Nasshorn said. “And if anybody is interested in hearing a presentation, just tell us where and when, and we’ll be there.”
For information, contact Valerie Fahie, overdose prevention coordinator/prevention specialist, at 215-230-8218, extension 3158.