John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Opioid Epidemic Category

"Pot vs Pills": Dr. Sanjay Gupta Special Report

Dr. Gupta takes an in depth look into cannabis as an alternative to prescription drugs. He tackles the role of cannabis in fighting America's opioid addiction crisis.

In the special, Gupta meets pioneers in the field of pain management as well as addiction research who believe that marijuana is the next best hope for treating both. 

He also speaks with those who have struggled with addiction including an exclusive interview with NFL running back Mike James. In 2013 James suffered a devastating leg injury during a Monday night football game. He was given opioids after surgery to treat his pain, and months later he found himself addicted. Scared and worried, his wife suggested he try marijuana, a drug that is banned by the NFL and could cost any player their careers. 

I've gotten some great feedback on my survey regarding the role of medical marijuana in avoiding opioids for pain management and for help during recovery.

Posted on 04 May 2018, 01:32 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

National Drug Take Back Day Was a Success

The recent DEA-sponsored National Drug Take Back Day - April 28, 2018 - was a great success. Newtown Township Police estimate that 104 lbs of unused, unwanted, or expired drugs were collected at the Newtown Township Administration building and 29 lbs from the Together We Can Convention for a total of 133 lbs! More than 16,705 lbs of drugs were dropped off in Bucks and Montgomery Counties:

More Drug Take Back Numbers

Meanwhile, you can still drop off your unused drugs at the Newtown Police Station any day of the week at any hour - even when the office is closed - thanks to Newtown's innovative 24/7 drug drop-off program, which I advocated for way back on August 9, 2017, before I was a Township Supervisor. Back then I called upon the Board of Supervisors to implement a 24/7 drug drop-off box at the Newtown Twp police station and to establish a "Drug-Free Newtown" committee of concerned citizens to advise the board about further initiatives to help curb the Opioid/drug abuse problem in Newtown and surrounding communities (see video below and my letter to the Bucks County Courier Times). 

I recall that during my campaign, the opposition put out a negative mailer claiming I wanted to take a police officer off the street to man a drug take-back box 24 hours a day! How cynical and unimaginative those critics were. I am happy that Henry Pasqualini - Newtown's Chief of Police - was passionate and creative enough to come up with a solution.

BTW, I spoke to the police officer "manning" the drop-off box located at the Together We Can convention and she told me that many people people are using the 24/7 option to drop off their drugs in Newtown, so that is a success as well!

Posted on 01 May 2018, 01:21 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

Report from the Together We Can Convention

On Saturday, April 28, 2018, I spent several hours manning my table at the “Together We Can™” convention addressing drug addiction in Bucks County, which took place at the Newtown Athletic Club. I participated in order to learn about solutions and get feedback about the potential of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain.

John Mack surveys attendees of the Together We Can convention.

As you can see from the video at the end of this post, there were many – perhaps 100 -  “vendors” and organizations with tables at the convention. Tables were arranged into three sections: Engage, Embrace and Encourage. I was in the "Engage" section, which also included the Bensalem Police Department two tables away. They were promoting their Recovery Assistance Program, which they hope other municipalities will copy - even Newtown perhaps.

“Under the Bensalem Police Assisting in Recovery (BPAIR) program instituted in 2016,” reported the Bucks County Courier Times (read Volunteer 'navigators' needed for Bensalem recovery assistance program), “any Bensalem resident can show up at the department day or night, even if they are under the influence, and ask for help. A volunteer or ‘navigator’ then is called to respond and accompany the resident to Gaudenzia treatment center in Bristol Township for a treatment assessment.” I was told that a local taxi company offers free transportation for the navigator and resident.

Bensalem Police manning a table at the Together We Can convention.

The convention organizers also invited political candidates – including Brian Fitzpatrict and other Republican Party candidates – to speak to the audience. Not invited – as far as I know – were any Democratic Party Candidates although PA State Representative Perry Warren was there making the rounds and manning his own table.

Regardless, I don’t think the convention should be considered a “trick” designed to get Republican candidates more exposure. Anyone could attend, including more Democrat candidates even if they were not invited to speak. You could have learned a thing or two just by attending!!!

Truth be told, it was difficult to hear most speakers and the real action was the interaction with attendees and vendors on the floor, many of whom were recovering from addiction. I learned a lot by talking to these people - no one asked my political affiliation.

I spoke to several parents who lost their sons and daughters to overdosing or who endured great hardship helping their children get treatment to overcome addiction. I also got some great feedback on my survey regarding the role of medical marijuana in avoiding opioids for pain management and for help during recovery.



Here’s my 8-minute video tour of the convention:

Posted on 30 Apr 2018, 15:27 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

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

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