Drug addiction is a public health problem and a medical problem, not a criminal justice problem, and it touches all of us,” Leach said. “In our daily lives and in our public policy we should focus on curing the underlying causes of drug addiction instead of treating people who suffer from addiction like criminals.”
During the forum, Montgomery County Commissioner Dr. Val Arkoosh and Kay McGowan of the Montgomery County Office of Drug and Alcohol explained the county’s work to combat opioid abuse and discussed the resources the county offers to residents. Terri Drass, an executive nurse at Valley Forge Medical Center (VFMC), discussed the history of the opioid crisis and explained why it’s been so devastating to public health. Amy Storti, a recovering addict and counselor at VFMC, shared her experiences with drug addiction.
Montgomery County endured a 51% increase in drug overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016. During those two years, the county’s drug overdose death rate ranks it 26th out of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
Data indicates the current drug overdose crisis in the United States is responsible for more 64,000 deaths in 2016 and has yet to peak. In comparison, 43,000 deaths were attributed to HIV/AIDS in 1995, the epidemic’s peak year.