Venango County Officials Continue Battle Against Opioid Epidemic

| June 30, 2017

FRANKLIN, Pa. (EYT) — As the opioid epidemic rages across the region, Venango County officials are working to be proactive in the fight against it.

On Thursday night, County Commissioner Albert “Chip” Abramovic, (pictured below), and Marie Plumer, director of the county’s Substance Abuse Program, hosted a Facebook Live forum to talk about the problems, issues, and solutions.

“It’s the start of a conversation that we want to start to do for the betterment of Venango County,” Abramovic said.

chip abromovic-venango commissioners

Plumer reported there have been more than 90 overdoses in the county so far this year.

“Our overdoses have increased by 300 percent in the last 2 1/2 years,” Plumer said.

Abramovic quoted some sobering statistics from the Commonwealth and across the country.

“In Pennsylvania, a person dies of an overdose every 19 minutes, and in the U.S., projections say one half million people will die from opioid overdoses,” he said. “This is why there is an increased efforts to prevent opioid use and overdoses.”

Plumer discussed efforts in helping fight the addiction/overdose problems.

“We’ve supplied NARCAN, we’ve worked with first responders to make sure they are equipped to handle what they must face,” Plumer said.

“We have a wealth of services in the county, outpatient counseling, family intervention, intensive outpatient treatment, and drug and alcohol inpatient facilities, and we have information for those that need to go outside the county for treatment,” Plumer said.

The efforts have also been ongoing in the schools for a long time, according to Plumer.

“It depends on the school district, but programs are being done for students beginning in the second grade through their senior year. We generally hit the middle schools pretty hard because we know the average age of first use is 10 years, and that number seems to be going down,” Plumer said.

“Now, we have prevention specialists going into the playgrounds and parks to do programs.”

“We know if we help our families keep the kids busy with positive activities, hopefully it will keep them from trying drugs and alcohol,” Plumer said.

Abramovic addressed a question about the demographics of those who are using and overdosing on opioids in the county.

“Many think it’s mostly in the two cities, Franklin and Oil City, but it’s widespread throughout the whole county,” Abramovic said. “It’s rural and the cities. In 2015, there were more overdoses in Franklin than there were in Oil City.”

He said the age range is scattered, but mainly the bulk of those overdosing are in the late 30s and early 40s.

Abramovic talked about the continued efforts to keep addicts alive after overdosing.

“When a person has three heart attacks, we don’t just give up on them. We keep working to help them,” he said.

Plumer agreed, saying she believes in whatever it takes to keep someone alive and on the path to recovery is worth it.

Both addressed the issue of the stigma of being addicted and how it plays such an important role in treatment.

“The isolation only makes them more secluded and depressed, and there’s only one way for them to turn, and the addiction continues,” Abramovic said. “We need to offer a helping hand, to let them know we are there for them.”

Plumer believes the stigma of addiction is a major factor in people getting help.

“No matter the age, it prevents people from getting help. The attitude that ‘It’s not my neighborhood’ isn’t true. It is our kids and our families, and they need our help,” she said.

For those who want to get NARCAN, Plumer explained they can go into a pharmacy and request it, and they will do a training with you. She suggested getting more than one kit because sometimes it takes more than one to reverse the effects of the opioid.

For those who are struggling to make ends meet and can’t afford the prescription, they can get a voucher for NARCAN by calling the county’s Substance Abuse Program at 814-432-9111.

Plumer also recommended that people call 211 which can help them meet many of their needs in health and social services.

PA Get Help Now is available for those who are living outside the area. They can be reached by calling 1-800-662-4357.

Another summit is being planned in September. The date will be announced at a later time.

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