Our community of South Fayette Township is a wonderful place to live, work and enjoy family and friends, but that doesn’t make us immune to difficult issues that are facing most communities across the country. One of these issues is the rise in opioid use, including heroin and prescription painkillers.
Opioids are most often used medically to relieve pain, but such substances can be abused for the morphine-like effects produced in the body. A recent study found that three out of every four heroin users started abusing prescription opioids prior to using heroin. The most recent study available found that 47,055 persons died from drug overdoses in the United States in 2014—the most since 1968, when the federal government began tracking this data. The opioid epidemic doesn’t discriminate; it cuts across all genders, races and income levels.
In order to fight this increasing epidemic, we as a community must educate our youth from an early age. The South Fayette Township Police Department has worked with our school district to educate students on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, both through the D.A.R.E. program for the past 30 years and most recently through Project Pride, which teaches kids about decision making, peer pressure and other topics. Of course, the most important education comes from the home, and it is the responsibility of parents to educate and inform their children about these dangers.
Since 2015, all South Fayette police cars have been equipped with naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, to help prevent opioid overdose deaths. The medication may be administered to someone who ingests narcotics either intentionally or accidentally. There are no negative effects from the use of naloxone whether the person has actually overdosed or not. Narcan comes in two forms—injectable and nasal. Our officers have been trained and certified to administer the nasal Narcan. Our officers have administered Narcan on several occasions since 2015 with a 100 percent success rate.
With opioid abuse creating a public health risk in communities large and small, and with families being torn apart by the tragedy of addiction, our police department has partnered with the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office to place a prescription medication collection box in the police station lobby for anyone to anonymously drop off old or expired medications for destruction. We started this program in an attempt to minimize the possibility of prescription medication being abused by people struggling with addiction.
Increasing public awareness of this difficult and sometimes uncomfortable issue will help the community recognize the problem, discuss it and, ultimately, overcome it.
John R. Phoennik, Chief of Police
South Fayette Township
This post was originally published on February 15, 2017 on Chief Phoennik’s blog.