We have a diverse group of people and at least three of the members are survivors – their sons died of overdoses of opioids.

One was actually in the military, was injured in the military, received surgery and then was released from the military. Of course once the pain medication stopped, and because he was addicted to opioids, resorted to heroin and passed away.

You wonder sometimes why you do what you do, and when you go to those meetings and you hear stories like that and you say WOW.

Often times people come up and say, “Look, I’m in active recovery and here’s what my story is, here’s my life, and but for certain people in the community, treatment, recovery, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Everyone’s life matters.

It’s so important to keep people alive. Some of the most productive and greatest people in this community are in recovery from opioids. You may not know that but there are estimates of about 30,000 people in our county that are in some form of recovery, whether it’s drugs, alcohol, or the like and it’s very important to keep these people motivated and stimulated to continue to be great people in our community. That creates an environment for me to be really passionate about it because they have suffered, they have seen loved ones die, and they are here in the community trying to help the community save lives.

When someone is revived with Narcan, within a few days a police officer and a treatment specialist go out to the home and talk to that person in about getting them into treatment, and it’s been highly successful. In both Tower Health and St. Joe’s, we have the warm hand off which is when someone comes in with an overdose they are immediately connected with a treatment counselor 24/7 at the Reading Health System and an on-call basis at St. Joe’s Penn State. We have a 70% success rate of getting these folks into treatment.

We are doing many, many drug take back programs.

We’re going into many of the municipal police departments where you can drop off unused medication. We are doing Narcan training where you have at least some basic knowledge on how Narcan works. We distribute Narcan free of charge to family members no questions asked. The state has a standing order, anyone can go to any pharmacy without a prescription and request Narcan for them or their family members. So it’s really an outreach to keep people alive until we get them into treatment.

The other big component is the stigma reduction where too often people will say he can simply get off of that substance, whatever it might be, if he just wants to stop, he needs to get into his head. Problem is, this is a brain disorder this is a substance use disorder, it’s a brain chemistry issue with people and you simply can’t say well he’s an alcoholic he can stop drinking tomorrow if he wants to, he can stop smoking tomorrow if he wants to, he can stop taking painkillers if he wants to, he can stop shooting heroin if he wants to, it’s deeper than that. So it’s really getting out there into the community for people to understand that these folks are valuable members of our community and they need our help and support.

I’m County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt, this election day I ask for your vote because Experience Matters.