Top state and local law enforcement, medical, and recovery experts gathered in Bucks County Monday evening to talk about substance addiction.
The event brought new Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry, the former Bucks County District Attorney and a respected prosecutor, back to the area. It was her first public event in the county after filling the state’s top law enforcement post after former attorney general Josh Shapiro became governor in January.
In addition to Henry, Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub took part along with Internationally Certified Prevention Specialist at the The Council of Southeast PA David Fialko, Medical Director at Doylestown Hospital’s emergency department Brenda Foley, and Licensed Professional Counselor with Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA) Kevin Keller.
The presentation was titled “The Violent Toll of Addiction, Why the Community Should Care and How We Can Be Part of the Solution.” It was part of Delaware Valley University’s School of Business and Humanities “Question It! Change It! Violence in America” Colloquium Series Spring in Doylestown.
The experts talked about addiction, ways to treat it, impacts on law enforcement and the community, and how it affects violent incidents in the community.
Foley said patients dealing with substances who come into emergency rooms can be violent, and her Central Bucks County hospital has seen it first hand.
“We need more security and training for staff,” she said, noting de-escalation training is key.
With a growing number of assaults of health care workers, Foley explained that protecting patients and staff is important.
Weintraub said opioids and the growth of methamphetamine and other drugs are causing problems in every part of Bucks County.
Henry added that new drugs that crop up present challenges for law enforcement, recovery and treatment teams, and medical staffs.
“We are committed to working with our partners to fight this malady through programs like our Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative, which connects individuals suffering from substance use disorder to the treatment they need,” Henry said.
Keller, who sees the issues firsthand through NOVA, said many people often see drug-related problems as only related to the person who is addicted.
“This is a community issue. This is a family issue,” he said. “This is bigger than one individual.”
“In our work to provide prevention, intervention and recovery supports, we recognize that addressing the issue of violence in our community will take a compassionate approach that includes individual, family and community strategies to support those living with the disease of addiction and prevent others from experiencing that,” said Fialko.
The speakers from the law enforcement and recovery fields all said those struggling with addiction need compassion and empathy to get better. Arresting people only goes so far.
Marion Callahan, an assistant professor of media and communication at the university who covered addiction in-depth as a journalist in Bucks County, introduced the speakers and noted that solving the addiction crisis requires the whole community.
The Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission was at the event and had Narcan kits on hand to provide to the public.
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