Dr. Lloyd Gestoso, professor and dean of the School of Social Work at Cairn University, partners with community leaders to organize an addictions task force dedicated to combating the drug addiction epidemic in the lower area of Bucks County. The Lower Bucks Addiction Task Force, a newly formed branch of the Bucks County Heroin Prevention Outreach initiative, works in an area with alarming statistics relating to substance abuse and deaths caused by drug overdose, particularly heroin.
According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, 117 drug overdose deaths were recorded in Bucks County in 2015; more than half of these deaths were caused by heroin overdose. Strong prescription drugs are easily accessible to these residents, who are often not fully informed of the potential addictive risks; later, they may be unaware that the drugs they purchase on the street may be cut with fatal substances. “[The drug that gets them hooked and ultimately kills them] could be down the street or right inside their medicine cabinet,” says Dr. Gestoso. “Some of these people innocently take drugs prescribed by their doctors and soon find themselves dependent on something they never anticipated would control them.”
LBATF aims to strategically combat the drug epidemic by gathering community leaders to take preventative measures and educating the public about this issue. On November 17, 2016, task force members, consisting of law enforcement, elected officials, and treatment representatives, held their first meeting in a classroom in Cairn University in Langhorne Manor. Together, they collaborated on a game plan to educate the public and treat residents already struggling with addiction. Members discussed how to promote the use of a new online monitoring database that can tip off medical providers to signs that patients are selling or abusing drugs.
LBATF members also plan to set up town hall meetings and information booths in 2017 to educate the public. These town hall meetings will educate residents on how prevent addiction in their homes and where and how to access treatment. In addition, members recognized the county’s current responses to overdoses, such as arming law enforcement officers with naloxone (also known as Narcan), an opioid antidote that can revive an individual who has recently overdosed. Task force members agreed to continue collaboration in future meetings and maintain long-term communication.