An epidemic of opioid overdose deaths is ravaging Pennsylvania and our area, tragically, is no exception. In just one week last August, heroin overdoses took the lives of nine victims in Delaware County. Studies have shown that many overdose victims end up on a path to heroin addiction after using prescription narcotics.
Victims find heroin to be a cheaper, more obtainable and more affordable alternative to high-end painkillers.
Alex Charlton has had a hand in combating the opioid abuse epidemic right in our own back yard. He’s a member of the Springfield Township Heroin Task Force, responsible for addressing the crisis and developing ways to save lives before they succumb to overdose.
We’ve made some important progress in our region. Delaware County’s prescription drug drop boxes take dangerous medications off the street. Putting Narcan and other lifesaving tools into the hands of first responders has given many victims a second chance at life. And we’ve convened specialized working groups and task forces of public officials, medical professionals, first responders and others that have improved our ability to address the crisis.
But Alex thinks there’s more that needs to be done. Much of the work done so far has focused on addicts that are already in crisis. We need to focus on prevention. We need to identify and treat victims before they reach the point of crisis.
We need to develop effective guidelines for doctors prescribing painkillers. We need to ensure Pennsylvania’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), which helps prevent doctor-shopping and abuse, is working for doctors, pharmacists and patients. And we need educate at-risk individuals about the dangers and get them care and counseling before they begin to abuse opioids.
That’s what Alex Charlton will work to do.