Addiction can strike anywhere and in any community, including ours — we have watched heroin use and seriously life-threatening addictions become more common. Our community, like many across the country, is learning this first-hand with a dramatic rise in the cases of drug abuse, addiction, overdoses and deaths.
Continuing the substance abuse discussion, Berwyn Fire Company EMS Capt. Michael Baskin provides background about Narcan and its use in heroin overdose situations. Important contact information is provided at the end of his remarks.
As a resident, it is reassuring to know that the local fire company and police department personnel are trained and equipped to handle drug abuse situations. Discussions about drugs and their consequences are extremely important — perhaps a community forum with the school administration, police department, fire company, parents and residents.
Thank you for bringing some of these concepts to the forefront of your community readers.
Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a medication used in opioid overdoses to counteract life-threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. If administered early enough, an overdose victim will begin to get a respiratory drive back, and shortly after become alert and aware. Naloxone only works if a person has opioids in their system; the medication has no effect if opioids are absent. There are many drugs that people overdose on that Narcan has no effect on. It is a temporary drug that wears off in 20-90 minutes and therefore anyone who received this drug needs to get to advanced care as the effects of the opioid may return after Narcan wears off.
As was noted, Tredyffrin police have been carrying Narcan for a little while now and have already administered it successfully. Berwyn, Radnor and Malvern fire company paramedics (the 3 primary paramedic providers to T/E) and other services have had Narcan as Advanced Life Support (ALS) providers for decades. As of July 1st, 2015 the Department of Health has allowed for Basic Life Support (BLS) to have access to Narcan in addition to the ALS. Departments across the Commonwealth are going through training now.
From a community approach perspective, the T/E community is well covered with Narcan access in an emergency. In extreme situations, providing rescue breathing and/or CPR to an overdose victim who is not breathing will provide needed oxygen prior to emergency services arriving. The ideal community focus needs to be preventing the need to ever use Narcan. Community, family and professional help should be available to anyone who needs it. Accepting that our community is not immune to these problems is a very big start.
Community education of drug, alcohol, mental illness and suicide prevention is a tremendous help. Acceptance of those who have these problems as a community is what leads us to success. By isolating, hiding, alienating or ignoring people who need guidance, we hurt rather then help this goal.
Here are some useful local numbers:
The Chester County Drug & Alcohol Hotline: 610-344-6620.
Crisis Counseling: 610-280-3270
Chester County Suicide Prevention: 610-344-6265
These numbers are just as much for someone searching for help personally as they are for someone concerned about another.
Michael S Baskin
EMS Captain, Berwyn Fire Co
In June, I learned that a local 20-something year old CHS graduate had committed suicide. Although I did not know the young man personally, I was told that he suffered from depression, drug addiction and was on probation through the courts. Having attended the funeral of his friend, another young man, himself a Conestoga graduate, sent me an email.
Overcome with grief over losing his close friend from high school, and looking for answers, his email read in part,
I’ve been struggling with addiction for 5 years now. I know that people need to get it on their own, but I mean trying to educate them before this happens. If I saw a fellow peer talk about how he/she just started out experimenting with drugs and eventually led to what it led to for me who knows what I would have done differently.
The problem is hard drugs have been normalized in the high school and almost glorified because they don’t see what happens when they are a little older and all of their friends are dying.
We have 15-year-old girls in Conestoga that are shooting heroin! It’s absolute insanity. Something needs to be done; we just lost ANOTHER graduate, one of my best friends, 3 days ago to this stuff.
The young man who sent me this email told me that had sent an email to the T/E School Board asking for their help with the drug problem in the schools.
Last year, Chester County officials released the statistics report on fatal heroin overdoses in the county. Since 1999, the overdose death rate in Chester County has doubled with 24 overdose deaths in 2013, with victims ranging from 21 to 79 years old. Fourteen were men and 10 were women. The report indicated that 18 of the fatal overdoses or approximately seventy-five percent, both heroin and prescription drugs were involved.
When the statistics were released, Chester County DA Tom Hogan stated, “One clear trend from these statistics is that prescription drug abuse is a gateway to a heroin overdose. Heroin does not discriminate. It is a deadly drug that is abused by young and old, poor and rich, white and black. Nobody is safe. There are students in every high school in Chester County who are using heroin, from Conestoga to Coatesville, from Unionville to Oxford.”
In 2014, we learned of the arrest of 11 people involved in the ‘Main Line Take Over Project’, a drug trafficking ring. Two Haverford School graduates were the drug operation kingpins and hired students at main line high schools, including Conestoga, Radnor and Lower Merion as their drug peddlers. Every child is at risk. According to experts, those with risk factors, such as a family history of mental illness or addiction, have a greater chance of becoming addicted.
Alcoholism and drug addiction is a disease. People are suffering from this disease and dying from this disease every day. We really can’t do anything as a society to help those people until we start talking about it.
I received the following statement from T/E School Board Director Liz Mercogliano with a request to add it to Community Matters:
Rescue for Overdose
My name is Liz Mercogliano. I serve as a current T/E school board director. I also have practiced psychiatric nursing since 1984. I am a practicing Realtor and lawyer.
I wanted to share the facts on overdose and/or harm to self or suicide. At T/E, I support giving our students mental and emotional support. Every year we lose a child to suicide or overdose. Overdose can happen in a second with prescription, legal and illegal drugs.
Many students and families are not familiar with the signs and symptoms of psychiatric disease or the fact that everyone has different levels of depressions throughout their lives. As a result, there are accidental overdoses as well as serious unidentified clinical depressions that may lead to suicide.
Please realize depression is treatable and many overdose accidents result in life changing events for the individual. The right thing to do is to help those who need our help. This help includes identifying persons at risk and offering professional help. This is not a small matter in our community. When it happens to you or a loved one, find help. In my mind, EMTs and the ability to reverse the overdose will make our community a better place.
Saving lives is the answer. Provide mental and emotional support all the sick whether it is a traditional medical disease or drug or alcohol disease.
Liz Mercogliano, RN, Esquire
T/E School Board Director
The use of drugs in suburbia is a growing epidemic – it’s not just on the streets anymore, it’s in suburban neighborhoods. The drug epidemic has pulled cocaine and heroin out of the dark shadows of American cities and into our suburban schools.
Today’s drug bust headlines mark a sad day for many of the ‘best of the best’ main line high schools and colleges.We learned of the arrest of 11 people involved in ‘Main Line Take Over Project’, a drug trafficking ring. Apparently two Haverford School graduates, Neil K. Scott, 25, and Timothy C. Brooks, 18, were the drug operation kingpins and hired students at Conestoga, Harriton, Lower Merion, Haverford School and Radnor high schools and college students from Gettysburg, Lafayette and Haverford as their drug peddlers.
A press release this afternoon from Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman’s office contained the details of the drug ring. A 4-month long investigation into the trafficking organization identified Brooks and Scott as the organization’s principal suppliers. Scott was shipped bulk pounds of marijuana from a California supplier and the shipments were delivered to his Haverford apartment (the base of the operation), to his parents’ home in Paoli and to Brooks’ family home in Villanova. In addition to marijuana, Scott and Brooks sold cocaine, hash oil and ecstasy to the high school students and college students.
According to the police report, Scott had designed a business plan with sales incentives for his drug business:
Neil Scott encouraged college sub-dealers to locate new customers to offset his cost of driving to their campuses. Scott offered the sub-dealers incentives for locating new customers and making referrals. The incentives were lower prices for drugs and the opportunity to buy them on credit.
Text messages recovered during this investigation revealed that Neil Scott gave Timothy Brooks business advice on how to expand the sale of marijuana in local high schools. Brooks in return, supervised sub-dealers who sold marijuana at the local high schools. Brooks supplied them with marijuana and encouraged them to efficiently distribute drugs at their schools.
The high school sub-dealers were encouraged to sell at least one (1) pound of marijuana a week. Brooks encouraged his sub-dealers to meet their weekly quota. The incentives included a lower purchase price for marijuana in order to increase their profit margin. Brooks instructed the high school sub-dealers to make certain there was always a constant supply of marijuana in their assigned school. Brooks said this was important to him because he remembered not always being able to buy marijuana when he was in high school.
Multiple search warrants found drug trafficking evidence at 9 locations in Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, Northampton, Adams and Philadelphia counties plus the homes of Scott and Brooks. According to the police report, the following items were seized:
- Approximately 8 pounds of marijuana
- Approximately 3 grams of hash oil;
- Approximately 23 grams of cocaine;
- Approximately 11 grams of MDMA; (Ecstasy)
- $11,035.00 in U.S. Currency;
- 1 loaded .223 caliber AR-15 Assault Rifle;
- 1 loaded 9mm semi-automatic pistol;
- 1 .22 caliber AR-15 style rifle;
- Additional .22 caliber, .223 caliber and 9mm ammunition;
- A 2007 Toyota 4 Runner sport utility vehicle;
- A 2009 Acura RDX sport utility vehicle;
- 8 cellular phones;
- 1 computer;
- Equipment and supplies used to manufacture butane hash oil;
- Numerous items of drug paraphernalia.
Last month we read in the Philadelphia Inquirer, that Chester County released theirheroin overdose statisticsand at that time District Attorney Tom Hogan commented, “Heroin does not discriminate. It is a deadly drug that is abused by young and old, poor and rich, white and black. Nobody is safe … There are students in every high school in Chester County who are using heroin, from Conestoga to Coatesville, from Unionville to Oxford.”
For decades, families moved from cities and into the suburbs in part because many believed that suburban schools provided a more wholesome environment. Many believed that moving from the city to suburbia provided a certain way of life, one of tranquil, tree-lined streets, soccer leagues and better schools for their families. Similarly, to my upbringing outside Washington, DC in a Maryland suburb, there are probably Main Line parents who thought that suburban public schools would provide their children with safe and more wholesome environment than their urban counterparts. Today’s drug arrest on the Main Line should provide a reality check for all.