Pubdate: Thu, 10 Mar 2016
Source: Daily Times (Primos, PA)
Copyright: 2016 The Daily Times
Author: Rose Quinn


Township to Steer Eligible Addicts to Treatment - Free of Charge

UPPER DARBY - With nearly 200 drug overdoses and 20 heroin-related 
deaths recorded in Upper Darby last year, township authorities are 
offering the police department as a "safe haven" to township drug 
users who voluntarily request help to find treatment.

Calling drug addiction the "Number One war in America" that impacts 
youth as readily as middleaged men and housewives, Mayor Tom Micozzie 
said, "We're killing the fiber of our community ... We need to do 
better here in America."

Speaking as father and grandfather, Micozzie has repeatedly been 
heartbroken watching township families struggle with drug problems, 
including epidemic heroin use.

As mayor, he was eager to join forces with Upper Darby Police 
Superintendent Michael Chitwood to find a way to help  in some cases, 
before a township police officer has to utilize Narcan to revive yet 
another victim of an opioid overdose.

Of the 199 Narcan saves by municipal police countywide in 15 months 
under David's Law, Upper Darby officers lead with 54, according to 
township officials and Emily Harris, spokeswoman for the Delaware 
County District Attorney's office.

With the support of Delaware County officials, Micozzie said he and 
Chitwood began discussions back in November with Gaudenzia Inc., a 
non-profit group that operates 147 drug and alcohol treatment 
programs for men and women in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware 
whose motto is, "A new beginning."

At a press conference Wednesday morning held at police headquarters, 
Micozzie and Chitwood were joined by Gaudenzia President and Chief 
Executive Officer Michael Harle. Together, they announced the debut 
of the township's "Change is Possible" program.

Chitwood immediately dubbed the police station a "safe haven," a 
starting point for township residents 18 years or older who 
voluntarily seek help for an addiction, and who meet certain conditions.

There will be "no questions, no concerns," Chitwood said of the 
eligible participants.

There will also be no cost to those involved.

Among the nearly 200 total overdoses recorded by the township in 
2015, heroin accounted for 123. In addition, there were 35 overdoses 
involving pills, three involving cocaine or crack cocaine, 10 
involving alcohol, 11 involving synthetic marijuana, four for PCP and 
13 unknown.

"There is a place for anybody who has any type of addiction," 
Chitwood said of the innovative program.

Modeled after a program in Massachusetts, Harle said the township's 
program is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania.

"What we want to do is get people early," said Harle. "If we wait 
until they go into a penitentiary or after they have overdosed four 
or five times, it's not as easy."

Under the township's program, participants will undergo a background 
check and then be required to complete an intake form. They will then 
be teamed with one of three social workers from Gaudenzia who will 
navigate them through the often complicated process of treatment admission.

Anyone with an outstanding arrest warrant will be deemed ineligible, 
as would an individual with three or more convictions for drug 
possession, or a single conviction for drug dealing or a drug 
violation in a school zone, among others, Chitwood said.

For anyone who has ever sought help for drug addiction, Micozzie 
said, "It's probably the most bureaucratic process you can imagine."

Harle said it will their job to cut through any red tape.

Frank Mount, a social worker supervisor for Gaudenzia who will mark 
30 years of drug/alcohol sobriety on May 4, said part of his role as 
a navigator is to ensure participants that there is treatment 
available to them, with or without health insurance.

According to Mount, funding from the state is available through 
various programs operated by Delaware County, and part of his job 
will be to research any and all funding sources.

"The mental state of a sick alcoholic/drug addict is beyond 
description," said Mount. "Anything I can do to help, I will."

But the drug problem is so prevalent, Mount said, "People see it 
every day and get almost immune to it. People don't realize there is 
a solution and that recovery does happen. People do become productive 
members of society."

For Chitwood, the program is a promise kept of sorts. Since police 
officers began administering Narcan under David's Law, he's been 
especially critical about a lack of resources available to drug users 
after the life-saving drug is utilized.

In his opinion, Chitwood said the fight against drugs requires a 
three-pronged approach: Law enforcement, education and rehabilitation.

For now, the program - under the supervision of Police Capt. Thomas 
Johnson - will run Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at 
the police station, which is located at 7236 West Chester Pike.

"We're starting out small," Chitwood said.

In the meantime, Chitwood said officers will continue conducting drug 
investigations, and making drug arrests, as usual.

According to Chitwood, the police department received the first 
inquiry about the program about an hour after the press conference. 
But because the caller was from North Philadelphia, she was provided 
contact information for Gaudenzia.

"This is about Upper Darby," Chitwood said.
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