Bucks County Herald

Panel comes together to discuss opioid crisis

DANA M. ECKMAN

The stigma surrounding addiction and a lack of resources are two major factors fueling the state’s opioid crisis and were heavily discussed topics at a closed panel discussion Jan. 29 at the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, 705 N. Shady Retreat Road, Doylestown.

The panel discussion highlighted the crisis and challenges for those struggling to recover from substance abuse and was hosted/moderated by state Rep. Marguerite Quinn, representing the 143rd Legislative District.

“Every day I’m asked by many of my constituents what’s being done about the drug problem in our community,” Quinn said. “Although I have not seen first-hand what drug addiction can do and the pain and suffering it can cause, I’m well aware that it touches the lives of many of the constituents that I serve.”

Christmas 2016 was supposed to be different for Pam Garozzo and her son, Carlos. He had celebrated the holiday at home only once in the previous seven years, having been in and out of prison or drug rehabilitation. For the last 20 months, he had been drug-free, had a good job and a girlfriend, and just walked his mom down the aisle at her wedding.

Yet Carlos’ struggle to overcome his opioid addiction came to a tragic, crashing halt the morning of Dec. 23, 2016, when his mom and her new husband found the 23-year-old at a motel, dead from a drug overdose. His family did everything possible to help Carlos beat his seven-year drug addiction, but they did not have the tools and training necessary.

“We need to look beyond the addict and see the person with a disease, a chronic disease that alters the brain,” said Garozzo, one of the panelists during the discussion. “There are things being done on a national level, but it is not enough. We need early intervention that looks at the whole child and addresses why they might use a substance. We need to help children learn their value as people and feel positive about themselves. There needs to be enough beds at treatment centers that can take care of people as they come in.”

Other panelists included: Diane Rosati, executive director of the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission, and David Fialko, Bucks County Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

“We are here for a common goal, to see how we can help against the heroin and opiate abuse that is plaguing our community,” Quinn said. “One word you will hear over and over is hope. We must not lose hope during these dire times.”

Rosati spoke that her department, which oversees state drug treatment funding, will provide money only to recovery houses in the Bucks County Recovery House Association, a group of owners and operators who created their own standards and policies they enforce among members. Rosati wants to see state legislation that would bar state funding to uncertified recovery residences, require that county drug and alcohol councils are notified in writing when a new recovery or sober home opens and require certified homes keep naloxone, the opiate reversal drug, on premises and show proof that individuals are trained in how to use it and require documentation of when the drug is used.

During the panel, Jim Kowalski, a representative from the Pennsylvania Recovery Organization Achieving Community Together (PROACT), went through a number of options that family members and parents of addicts have in support. Nearly all addiction services have support services for close family members, Kowalski said.

Real change can only come once members of the community work to create that change, the panel explained. Parents and community members could petition schools to include addiction education in their curriculum and create open dialogues about recovery homes and people in recovery in order to better support those communities.

“This frank discussion about the opioid problem this community faces shows us what to look for, how to address it, who to reach out to and that there is hope,” Quinn said.

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