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York County officials mapping out how to tackle heroin problem

Katherine Ranzenberger
  • York County officials are working to find a way to tackle the opioid and heroin epidemic.
  • Community involvement helps with treatment options, according to Project Lazarus.

Heroin and opioid abuse are a continuing problem, and York County officials are trying to figure out how to tackle the crisis with the help of the community.

County officials and members of the York County Heroin Task Force met Wednesday with Fred Brason, executive director of Project Lazarus in North Carolina, to discuss how the groups can work more efficiently together and bring the community into the problem-solving.

"You have to admit there's an issue in the community," said Dr. Matt Howie, medical director of the City of York Bureau of Health. "It does give you pause, but people can't really ignore it anymore. There's a lot of personal experience in it now. It's very real."

York County chief deputy prosecutor Dave Sunday makes a point while appearing on a panel with York County Coroner Pam Gay during a public hearing called "Heroin and Opioid Addiction, Treatment and Recovery" at the Yorktowne Hotel Tuesday, August 18, 2015. The hearing was sponsored by Rural Pennsylvania, a legislative agency of the state general assembly.
(Bill Kalina photo)

Howie said the discussion of how to treat addiction is starting to evolve in much the same way as the discussion of domestic violence has done. People are starting to be more open about it, and more people are coming forward with their own stories of how addiction has affected their life.

One way officials are looking to help address the issue of addiction and heroin in the community is by hiring an executive director of health for York County. Howie said the groups are fundraising to pay for that position. Chief deputy prosecutor Dave Sunday, who co-chairs the York County Heroin Task Force, said they're hoping to create the position within the county government as soon as possible.

Dr. Matt Howie

"What we're hoping for is to develop a long-term, sustainable strategy to combat this issue," Sunday said. "The executive director would lead that effort. We want to formalize the effort."

Community involvement: Brason came from Wilkes County in North Carolina to discuss ways his team has worked with the community to address the heroin and opioid abuse issue there. Project Lazarus is all about community involvement in the treatment of addiction and substance abuse.

"The Affordable Care Act determined addiction is a disease," Brason said. "There is no one treatment that works for everybody, but there is a treatment out there for everyone."

There is a biological response to cause someone to be an addict, Brason told York County officials. Some people are predisposed to be addicts, but finding out how to work with them is key to their rehabilitation.

"We need to find out the environmental factors in someone's life to help with prescription practices," he said. "It's an instinct to fight for that high. Behavior is a symptom, not a frustration."

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Treatment: Medication-assisted treatment is an option for some addicts. There is currently one methadone and suboxone clinic in York County. Pyramid Healthcare Inc. is located at 104 Davies Drive in Springettsbury Township.

Howie said another clinic was supposed to move in on Queen Street in the late 1990s. However, people in the area were upset about the move into their neighborhood.

Brason said that response isn't uncommon. Getting the community on board with treatment is key, though.

"That's a reality," he said. "There should be peer-to-peer counseling to help these people."

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County officials still don't have a solid plan for how to combat the problem in the area, but Sunday said they're working to come up with the best ways to help addicts.

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at or on Twitter at @YDKatherine.