Media, PA – District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer and Sandra Garrison, the Director of the County’s Department of Human Services, announced today the creation of the Delaware County Substance Abuse & Recovery Task Force to replace the Heroin Task Force.
In making their announcement, Stollsteimer and Garrison noted that while the Heroin Task Force had played a vitally important role in the early years of the opioid epidemic, much had been learned about the issue of substance abuse and recovery since 2012. “The Department of Human Services is excited about the new Task Force and the opportunity to partner more closely with the District Attorney’s Office,” said Garrison. “While DHS has always played a central role in addressing the needs of residents who struggle with substance abuse, we believe that by joining forces with the DA to address substance abuse in all its forms – and not just heroin – and by working cooperatively across departmental lines to focus on recovery, we can make even greater strides in combatting the disease of substance abuse and supporting individuals in recovery,” said Garrison.
“By renaming and reorganizing the Heroin Task Force, we hope to demonstrate the County’s recognition that the problem of substance abuse is not primarily a law enforcement problem – it is a human problem, with many dimensions,” said Stollsteimer. He continued, “Substance abuse is a disease and it must be treated as such. While my department is charged with enforcing the law regarding illegal drugs, we also recognize that not all drug users should be treated first and foremost as criminals. We look forward to working with all members of the new Task Force to find opportunities for partnership to better understand and support individuals struggling with substance abuse.”
The Task Force held its first meeting on Wednesday, January 27, by Zoom. Stollsteimer and Garrison stated that they expect the full Task Force to meet for quarterly updates, but that the work of the Task Force will be accomplished primarily through the following subcommittees: Data Collection and Analysis, Public Education and Events, Criminal Justice, Human Services, and Overdose Prevention.
Many of the members of the newly constituted task force served on its predecessor, including Sheriff Jerry Sanders. “This is an important acknowledgement by the County government and the County’s law enforcement partners that to effectively meet the needs of our citizens, we must learn to think holistically, and work across organizational lines. I look forward to this newly revitalized partnership,” said Sanders, who will chair the Criminal Justice subcommittee. “As a prime example of this type of collaboration, the law enforcement community is looking forward to the launch of the Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative, which will divert individuals suffering from a substance abuse problem to treatment providers rather than prosecution,” said Sanders.
The subcommittees are expected to begin work immediately. There was widespread acknowledgement that the pandemic has had a negative effect on efforts to reach community members suffering with substance abuse, particularly opioids. In response, the Task Force plans to move quickly and creatively to ensure that Narcan is as widely distributed as possible. Currently, the District Attorney’s office distributes Narcan to municipal police departments, fire companies and emergency responders. Working through the Overdose Prevention subcommittee, the Task Force intends to seek new community partners in this effort, as well as planning for drive-through Narcan events. “With the prevalence of fentanyl in the community, it is critically important that we distribute Narcan as comprehensively as possible throughout the community. You absolutely cannot overdose on Narcan – but you absolutely can save a life with it,” said Task Force member Bob Simpson, who will chair the Overdose Prevention subcommittee.
“It is impossible to assess how we are doing in tackling substance abuse in the County without reliable data,” said County Council member Kevin Madden. “Many areas of the County’s operations have been plagued by a lack of rigorous data collection, and substance abuse is no exception. It will be a long and slow process, but by making better data a priority of this group, we hope to better understand the nature and scope of the problem facing our community,” said Madden, who plans to serve on the Data Collection and Analysis subcommittee.
While the Task Force expects to look for new ways to connect with the community, the District Attorney’s office will continue to maintain drug collection boxes throughout the County and will continue to make the Mobile Drug Collection van available at community events. The County maintains drug collection boxes located throughout the County, which provide residents with a convenient, safe and anonymous way to dispose of expired or unwanted prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. Organizations, businesses, and municipal leaders in Delaware County can contact the District Attorney’s Office at 610-891-4161 to schedule the mobile drug collection van free of charge.
A partial list of the members of the Task Force and their respective organizations are listed below:
Jack Stollsteimer, District Attorney
Sandy Garrison, Director, Department of Human Services
Laura Fidorowicz, Department of Human Services
Jenny Wyatt, Widener University
Stacy Nawn, Crozier-Keystone
Kevin Madden, County Council and Chair of the Jail Oversight Board
Hon. Kevin Kelly, President Judge
Hon. John Capuzzi, Chair, Criminal Justice Advisory Board
Hon. Linda Cartisano
Dr. Frederick Hellman, County Coroner
Brian Corson, Executive Director, MVP Recovery, and Member, Jail Oversight Board Tim Boyce, Director, Emergency Services
Chief James McCans, Director, Haverford Emergency Services
Peggy Murr, Haverford Alliance for Drug Awareness
Bob Simpson, Springfield Cares Coalition
Salena Jones, Esq., Office of the District Attorney
Dana Rachko, Department of Human Services
Marlene Richmond, Chief of Staff, PA Rep. Dave Delloso
Trooper Jessica Tobin, Pennsylvania State Police
Trish McFarland, President, Chamber of Commerce
Trish Stouch, Partners for Success
Jerry Sanders, Sheriff
Chief John Viola, Havertown Police Department, Chief of Delco Police Chiefs Superintendent Tim Bernhardt, Upper Darby Police Department
Tinu Moss, Esq., Kenneth R Shuster & Associates, P.C.
Bob Lodge, Esq., Office of the Public Defender
Chief Jim Nolan, Criminal Investigation Division
Larren Armstrong, Department of Human Services
Joel Shafer-Harris, Department of Human Services
Joelle Williams, Department of Human Services
Aisha Hynson, Department of Human Services
Joanne Phillips, Controller
For press inquiries, please contact Margie McAboy, Public Information Officer, Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, 610-579-0429.