Approximately one-hundred Delaware County citizens and business leaders had the pleasure of attending a panel discussion and law enforcement presentation on the opioid epidemic sponsored by the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce on August 21st. It was encouraging to see such a diverse group of motivated and passionate individuals come together to have a dialogue about this incredibly important issue. The future of our community will depend on how we address this issue. From the beginning of my campaign I have advocated for a swift, compassionate and lasting solution to this epidemic. It was apparent that the panelists and law enforcement representatives share my passion to bring a compassionate end to this epidemic.
The highlight of the morning, for me, was when Chief Joseph Ryan, Delaware County Criminal Investigations Division, spoke about Delaware County’s NARCAN program. Our county was the first in the state of Pennsylvania to equip on-patrol law enforcement officers with the life-saving, opioid inhibitor, NARCAN. Before, November of 2015 it was illegal in Pennsylvania for law enforcement to administer any medication to citizens. From the day the law was passed, almost three years ago, our officers in Delaware County have been equipped with and been saving lives with NARCAN. To date over 1,200 people have been given a second chance to be with their loved ones, to overcome their addiction and to make a difference in the life of a fellow human being still struggling. I commend our law enforcement community for their efforts and I am proud to be running for office in the first county to put saving lives over the political pressure to prosecute.
Saving lives is our first priority. However, we cannot abandon people struggling with addiction after their first contact with the system. Life has many facets and someone living with addiction needs support in finding employment. Being employed is not only a way to sustain someone financially but it also gives a person a sense of purpose and self-reliance. Our District Attorney Kat Copeland outlined our county’s treatment court program, another first for the state of Pennsylvania. Part of treatment court is job placement and a part of job placement is educating employers on how to compassionately work with someone in recovery. Reengaging people in recovery with the local economy is imperative to their long-term success and will benefit our community as a whole. I strongly support our treatment court program and would fight for funds in Harrisburg to bolster this program and others like it.
From the beginning I have been advocating for a compassionate response to this epidemic and sometimes that means taking an unpopular position. It is of the utmost importance that we address this epidemic as a medical issue and not as a criminal justice problem. We must stop labeling this segment of our community as criminals. They are citizens that are suffering and need our support just like those fighting any other recognized diseases. I was happy to hear that our treatment court program has “some tracks that result in expungement.” While appreciating the need to provide law enforcement with tools to help in this epidemic, I strongly support expungement for all non-delivery offenses. My campaign is advocating for a system that allows for law enforcement to transport addicts to treatment but that does not end with a criminal conviction. I am anxious to get to Harrisburg to continue to promote a compassionate response and to further the good work we have started in Delaware County.