Within the first two months of the Falls Township Supporting Recovery Program – which pairs Falls Township Police with a certified recovery specialist – personnel have answered 30 substance abuse calls, according to Falls Township Police Chief Nelson Whitney.
Of those 30 people, 10 are in the process of being placed into treatment or evaluated for level of care needed, Whitney told the Falls Supervisors during last months virtual meeting. Falls was the first community in Bucks County to launch the Supporting Recovery Program. The grant- funded program began in February and has underlined the real need for recovery specialists.
Falls Township has had 18 overdoses so far in 2021. Two overdoses in early April, just 45 minutes apart, resulted in death, Whitney told the board. Additionally Whitney said recently that since 2010, there have been 854 overdoses in Falls Township, Of those, 131 were fatal. While fatal drug overdoses have been decreasing, Whitney said the number of overdoses continue to increase. In 2019, the department responded to 105 overdoses and in 2020 handled 123 overdoses.
Falls is certainly not the only community battling addiction. Drug overdoses are the number one cause of injury-related death in the U.S., killing an average of 44,000 people per year, according to American Addiction Centers.
Even with the concerted effort between the township, police, and recovery specialists, opioid addiction will take time to mitigate, Whitney said.
Supervisor John Palmer, an active member of the Mental Health and Opioid Taskforce, “Pennsbury, Committed to Life,” suggested involving the county’s drug taskforce.
“It doesn’t seem like we’re getting ahead of it,” Palmer said.
Police report every overdose to the county drug taskforce, Whitney said. Falls police have gone a step further in distributing Narcan to Falls Township hotels. “Most” hotels have come on board, Whitney said.
Falls police use Narcan, a nasal spray, to assist someone who has overdosed on opioids in breathing or regaining consciousness. In cases where police have responded to overdose or substance abuse calls at hotels, Whitney said the people are “not typically” Falls residents, but instead tend to be from Bucks County or other neighboring communities.
“It does feel like this uphill battle, because it is,” Whitney said.
The program is funded completely through a grant from the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission Inc. As part of the Falls Township Supporting Recovery Program, the commission pays the salaries of the Family Service Association of Bucks County’s certified recovery specialists assigned to work with the police department.