John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Opioid Epidemic Category

How Effective is the "Push Out the Pusher" Program?

Nearly a year after the “Push out Pusher” campaign started, Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub says he is seeing results. He says the initiative has already led to several arrests, but he also said: “I can't get into details because most of those cases are still pending but we are pleased with the results.”

Push Out the Pusher signs available at the Newtown Police Dept

I got the same response from Newtown Chief Henry Pasqualini at the April 11, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting (watch the 6-minute video clip below).

A critical part of the program is the six-detective “task force” that District Attorney Matt Weintraub hired to “root out” the pushers at a yearly cost of $885,400 (see here). What’s the Return on this investment?

While I am appreciative of all that Bucks County is doing to help fight the opioid epidemic, I think creating a 6-person drug task force at a cost of nearly a million dollars per year is a tactic that has been used before - i.e., the “war on drugs” - which has proven to be a failure. Meanwhile Bucks County residents are going to be stuck with the taxes to pay for this no matter the outcome of those cases (op cit).

Another concern I have is how this program jibes with Chief Pasqualini’s policy to help victims of addiction rather than arrest them. As the Chief explained in his comments to the BOS, “make not mistake, there are people out there that are peddling these drugs that are not actually users and this program focuses on them.”

Even so, I am concerned that some people may falsely believe that someone suffering from addiction is also a “pusher” and will call the number on the sign. Enter the special task force detectives who might coerce the victim to work as an informer – under threat of arrest for illegal use of drugs - to “root out” the so-called “pusher.” I know such tactics are often used as has been well-documented.

However, as the Chief also explained, the program makes people more aware of the problem, which is a good thing.

The biggest “pushers” of all, however, are the drug companies that have engaged in illegal marketing of opioids. Bucks County Commissioners obviously agree as they recently approved the hiring of a New York City-based law firm to file a civil claim against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid drugs (see here).

Further Reading:

Posted on 19 Apr 2018, 13:25 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

Democratic Candidates for U.S. Congress District 1 to Speak on Opioid Epidemic

Steve Bacher, Rachel Reddick, and Scott Wallace - Democratic Candidates for U.S. Congress District 1 - will speak on the Opioid Epidemic, Access to Healthcare, Recovery Support & Housing, Medicaid, Criminal Justice Reform and answer your questions.

I have a couple of questions for them:

  1. Do you think Medical Marijuana (MMJ) has a role in combatting opioid addiction?

  2. Do you agree with the school zone restriction of the PA MMJ Law, which prohibits MMJ dispensaries from being located with 1,000 feet of the property line of a public, private or parochial school or a day-care center”?

What do you think?

Here's some more information pertaining to those two questions plus an online survey

After completing the survey, you can see a summary of results to date. No identifying information is collected via this survey unless you provide such information within your comments.THIS SURVEY IS NOT AN OFFICIAL SURVEY OF NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP OR ANY OTHER GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY. Results of the survey, however, may be used by Supervisor John Mack to help form his opinion and make reports to the Newtown Board of Supervisors.

Posted on 16 Apr 2018, 01:34 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

Police Chief Speaks About His 24/7 Drug Drop-Off Program

Newtown Township Police Chief Henry Pasqualini explains how his 24/7 drug drop-off program works and offers more details about the collection of drug overdose and Narcan use police call data in response to a question from Supervisor John Mack. His remarks were made at the January 10, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting.

I appreciate that the Chief's Call for Service Report (see below) now includes call numbers for overdoses and Narcan Use. Management guru Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying "you can't manage what you can't measure." So, these data are important.

As you may know, Mr. Resnikoff – Chief of Operations at the Squad – reported that the Squad’s response to opioid calls was up 58% in the first 8 months of 2017 compared to 2016 (for more on that, read "Newtown Ambulance Squad Seeks Additional Funding").

I’d just like to say one other thing related to this:

Pennsylvania Underestimates Death Due to Opioids by More Than Half! (Read about that here.) That’s the worst record of any state. It’s a disgrace that Chuck Kiessling - the president of the Pennsylvania Coroners Association - can’t tell us how many opioid overdose deaths the 67 members of his association handled last year. According to Mr. Kiessling, that data "isn’t going to impact the living." I’m here to say that those deaths matter and do have an impact on the living, especially the families of the victims.

 

Posted on 12 Jan 2018, 01:01 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

The Other Cost of the Opioid Epidemic: Increased Taxes

According to an article in today's Intelligencer,  Bucks County property taxes will go up 5.4 percent in 2018 to cover a $10 million budget deficit that commissioners say is due to the expenditure increases related to the ongoing fight against the opioid epidemic (see summary below).

We've seen the impact on EMS costs right here in Newtown when Evan Resnikoff, Chief of Operations, Newtown Ambulance Squad, asked the Town for the reinstatement of a 0.5 mill tax to cover increased costs mostly due to a 58% increase in opioid calls in the first 8 months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016 (for more on that, read "Newtown Ambulance Squad Seeks Additional Funding"). This adds a significant cost to the healthcare system including EMS because greater than 80% of these patients have no insurance and cannot pay the fees.


The increase in County tax would mean a typical Bucks County homeowner would pay about $45 extra in real estate taxes in 2018. If Newtown adds its own EMS tax, a typical Newtown Township homeowner could pay an additional $40 in taxes above that amount or a total of $85 per year.

The County tax increase would have been even higher if Emergency services did not tap into $2 million of state funding.

Meanwhile, where's the money from the federal government as a result of declaring this a "National Emergency?" Trump said "The opioid crisis is an emergency, and I am saying, officially, right now, it is an emergency. It's a national emergency. We're going to spend a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money on the opioid crisis,” Trump told reporters at his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

 

Posted on 26 Dec 2017, 13:17 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

Newtown Has a 24/7 Drug Drop Box - Sort Of

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the December 13, 2017, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting. Well, not really funny, but gratifying! The following notice was - and hopefully still is - posted to the front door of the Municipal Building telling people that they now can drop off their unused drugs - including opioid pain medications - at police headquarters even when the office is closed after 4:30 PM, before 8:00 AM and on the WEEKENDS!

Notice posted on door to Municipal Building

All you have to do is use the red call box on the front porch of police headquarters and an officer will respond to give you access to the drop off box. Hopefully, the response will be as quick as possible. Whatever you do, do not leave unattended drugs on the front porch of police headquarters!

Although this is not as convenient as a 24/7 drug drop-off box that I advocated when campaigning for Supervisor, it is probably the best option for now. It's gratifying because my comments to the Board of Supervisors and discussions with Police Chief Henry Pasqualini have paid off. Thank you Chief!

Posted on 17 Dec 2017, 01:33 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

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