York City officials update residents at public meeting

Jason Addy

A panel of York City’s top officials met in the Fireside neighborhood Tuesday night to provide an update on city programs and to hear the concerns of residents.

In her first quarterly town hall of 2017, York City Mayor Kim Bracey promoted several of her administration’s healthy eating, healthy living initiatives and the new City of York mobile app before relinquishing the microphone.

York City Fire Chief David Michaels told about two dozens residents in the Yorktown Center on Kelly Drive that the fire department has responded to nearly 750 calls in 2017 and is on pace to field more than 3,100 calls — the record set in 2016.

The York City Fire Department will step up its fire-code enforcement efforts to prevent tragic, fatal fires, Michaels said, alluding to a fire in Oakland, California, that killed four people Tuesday.

Officials in Oakland uncovered multiple fire-code violations during an inspection of the building Friday, just four days before the blaze, according to The Associated Press. Fire inspectors believe the burned building, which housed more than 80 recovering drug addicts and former homeless people, lacked fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and a sprinkler system.

The fire happened about 5 miles from the site of another deadly fire in Oakland, where 36 people were killed after a fire broke out Dec. 2, 2016, during an unlicensed concert inside a warehouse.

In the wake of those fires, Michaels reminded the residents about the fire department’s smoke detector program. Residents can call the fire department and ask for firefighters to install new smoke detectors inside their homes to comply with fire-code regulations free of charge, Michaels said.

York City firefighters will go door-to-door June 16 handing out smoke detectors and helping residents install them as part of the American Red Cross’ initiative to reduce fire fatalities by 25 percent over the next five years, Michaels said.

Naloxone saves: Since the York City Fire Department began carrying the opioid-overdose reversal drug naloxone in January, firefighters have administered 28 doses, saving 17 people from potentially fatal overdoses, Michaels said.

City firefighters were equipped with the life-saving drug Jan. 10, and the department saved its first drug-overdose victim just three days later.

“(It’s) another tool that we have to help save some lives,” Michaels said, adding that police and emergency medical responders throughout York County also carry the drug.

The police department has been carrying naloxone since April 2015, and officers have saved about 35 opioid-overdose victims since the start of the year, York City Police Lt. Troy Bankert said.

Though it’s unfortunate that so many people need the overdose-reversal drug, it’s good that emergency responders now have the ability to save those lives, Bankert said.

Throughout the last few years, February has usually been a “bad month” for opioid overdoses, but this year, that stretch of overdoses started in January, Bankert said.

Post-overdose help: Bankert then told the group about how the police department handles overdoses. York City Police do not arrest overdose victims, even if they are found with unused drugs or paraphernalia, Bankert said, as the department fears people will fear calling 911 for help.

Once the victims are transported to the hospital, medical staff take over and provide referrals for post-treatment services and drug rehab programs, Bankert said.

Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine and other top state health officials visited York Hospital on Tuesday to praise its implementation of a “warm handoff” initiative that aims to immediately send opioid-overdose survivors into treatment.

More: 'Warm handoff' for overdose victims praised at York Hospital

Of the 123 overdose deaths in York County last year, 116 were heroin-related, Levine said.

York County Coroner Pam Gay said there have been 15 confirmed overdose deaths so far in 2017, with another 29 drug deaths suspected.