HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The opioid epidemic in Dauphin County is surging, so the need for treatment centers and programs to help addicts is also growing.
This requires a lot of money, and some local leaders want drug makers to pay that tab. Taxpayers front much of the cost.
“Treatment is an absolute must,” said Jon Gamble, program director at Gaudenzia Common Ground.
Gaudenzia Common Ground is the newest drug treatment and detox center in Dauphin County. It had its ribbon cutting last week.
“On average, we’ll take up to 500 detox patients a year, and out of the 500, I would probably say roughly 425 are opioid addicted,” Gamble said.
“For someone to ask for help is a really courageous thing to do,” Dauphin County Commissioner George Hartwick III said.
Hartwick is chairman of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania’s Human Services Committee.
The committee released a statement blaming drug makers for starting and continuing the opioid crisis. They agree with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s investigation into whether pharmaceutical companies illegally marketed and sold opioid drugs. Shapiro joined several other attorneys general in the investigation.
Hartwick’s committee is calling on drug companies to help pay for treatment.
“It’s not fair that there’s major corporate profits that were made that cost people’s lives and now taxpayers are the only ones that are responsible for paying for the treatment and what’s happened as a result of that,” Hartwick said.
Hartwick says the epidemic has cost taxpayers $11 million over the past five years.
“Being able to offer additional detox beds gives a pathway to someone who says, ‘Look, I can’t go through this illness part.’ It helps them improve for the long haul,” Hartwick said.
“An overdose 10 years ago was a shock,” Gamble said. “It was like wow. That person passed away, but now it’s becoming so common that I must receive at least a phone call a week that someone has overdosed or died from an overdose.”
Women are an increasing group seeking treatment, and often not enough beds are available for them, according to Gamble.
Hartwick says 91 people died of drug overdose deaths in Dauphin County in 2016, and they’re on pace to double that this year.