TOWANDA — While Bradford County Commissioners acknowledged that there is still a long way to go in combatting the opioid problem in the county, they were encouraged by the progress being made so far.

Specifically, they cited the strides made since Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf declared the epidemic as a disaster throughout the commonwealth.

“Over the past year, there was enough legal opiates shipped into Bradford County to give every single person in the county — no matter the age — 33 pills for the year,” Commissioner Ed Bustin said. “I think we can all agree that everyone in Bradford County isn’t taking and doesn’t need 33 pills of opiates a year.”

Bustin explained that, since then, prescribed opiates have decreased by 25 percent in Bradford County and 27 percent throughout the state because of the commonwealth’s prescription monitoring program.

“However, statistics don’t count to the people who have already lost loved ones,” he said. “We’re losing a lot of people because of this problem, and it’s not going away.”

The commissioners’ comments follow a recent meeting in Reading with CCAP (County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania) members and Pennsylvania Opioid Command Center Incident Commander Ray Barishansky, who informed them that overdose deaths decreased by 18 percent in 2018 compared to 2017. However, more than 4,400 people still died in 2018 as a result of drug overdose.

“While it is encouraging to see that overdose deaths have decreased across Pennsylvania, it does not mean we will slow down our efforts,” Barishansky said. “This crisis continues to affect thousands of Pennsylvanians and we are seeing other hurdles in the substance use crisis including new drugs, such as stimulants, that are involved in the substance use crisis. We remain laser-focused and committed to continuing to address substance use disorder in the commonwealth.”

Commissioner Doug McLinko also encouraged people who are struggling with addiction to seek help as quickly as possible.

“We’ve got to be tough on dealers,” he said. “But while there certainly is a crime aspect to this, we want to help. If you need help, reach out. There are lots of people ready to help you if you have a problem.”

Johnny Williams can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 232 or jwilliams@morning-times.com. Follow Johnny Williams on Twitter @johnnywMT

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