Combating the Opioid Epidemic

In 2016 in Bucks County, we lost 185 lives to opioids -- a 50-percent increase from the prior year. In neighboring Montgomery County, opioid abuse claimed a staggering 240 lives -- one of the highest counties in the state with opioid-related deaths. Nationally, heroin deaths have risen sharply and now surpass 30,000 a year, with each fatality representing a family crushed by the overwhelming loss of a loved one.

A solution is possible, but only if we are willing to work together. Constant engagement between federal, state, and local leaders partnering with law enforcement, healthcare professionals, and educators will set us on the path to free our community from the creeping advance of opioid abuse. My staff and I are entirely committed to supporting Pennsylvania and local municipalities in their efforts to address this crisis.

As an EMT and vice-chair of the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force, I’m working each day to find new ways to tackle this challenge head-on:



  • Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the licit prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others.
  • Opioids are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brain and nervous system to produce pleasurable effects and relieve pain.
  • Addiction is a primary, chronic and relapsing brain disease characterized by an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
  • Prescription Opioids and Heroin – Facts on prescription opioids and heroin from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


  • Of the 21.5 million Americans 12 or older that had a substance use disorder in 2014, 1.9 million had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers and 586,000 had a substance use disorder involving heroin.
  • Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014.
  • Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 10,574 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2014.
  • From 1999 to 2008, overdose death rates, sales and substance use disorder treatment admissions related to prescription pain relievers increased in parallel. The overdose death rate in 2008 was nearly four times the 1999 rate; sales of prescription pain relievers in 2010 were four times those in 1999; and the substance use disorder treatment admission rate in 2009 was six times the 1999 rate.
  • In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills.
  • 94% of respondents in a 2014 survey of people in treatment for opioid addiction said they chose to use heroin because prescription opioids were “far more expensive and harder to obtain.”
  • The prescribing rates for prescription opioids among adolescents and young adults nearly doubled from 1994 to 2007.
  • In 2014, an estimated 28,000 adolescents had used heroin in the past year, and an estimated 16,000 were current heroin users. Additionally, an estimated 18,000 adolescents had heroin a heroin use disorder in 2014.3
  • People often share their unused pain relievers, unaware of the dangers of nonmedical opioid use. Most adolescents who misuse prescription pain relievers are given them for free by a friend or relative.


The Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic has developed this toolkit in conjunction with the Addiction Policy Forum to connect families impacted by addiction with evidence based resources around prevention, treatment and recovery.


  1. The Parent Toolkit - Whether your child is toddling through preschool, meandering through middle school or cruising through his ’20s here are tips to help guide him toward a healthy life at every age!

  2. Free Online Course: "Medicine Safety: Drug Disposal and Storage"

  3. Parenting Practices – Six practices that will help you reduce the chances your child will develop a drug or alcohol problem.
  4. How to Connect with Your Kids - Teens say that parents are the most important influence when it comes to drugs and alcohol. This link provides information for parents on how to bond with your teenagers as well as 8 ways to talk with your teen about drugs and alcohol.
  5. Family Checkup - Highlight parenting skills that are important in preventing the initiation and progression of drug use among youth.
  6. National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month and Online Toolkit for Community Leaders - CADCA’s online prescription drug abuse prevention toolkit introduces facts, strategies, and tools to prevent and reduce teen prescription drug abuse in your communities.
  7. SAMHSA Parent Resources Underage Drinking – Check out these resources to help you start—and keep up—the conversation about the dangers of drinking alcohol at a young age.
  8. Teen engagement - Resources to help teens live “Above the Influence” and learn the facts about drugs and alcohol.
  9. The Medicine Abuse Project – The Medicine Abuse Project website includes information about prevention of prescription drug abuse, painkiller addiction, and over the counter (OTC) medicine abuse. It provides information about how to dispose of medicine and how to safeguard the medicine in your home, as well as lists medicine abuse facts and includes comprehensive information about the most abused prescription drugs.


  1. Children of Alcoholics Kit for Parents - The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) has assembled this kit to help you and your children learn more about this disease and to provide information for you about resources others have found to be helpful.


  1. Intervention eBook: What to do if your child is drinking or using drugs – This ebook answers parents’ most pressing questions about confronting their child about his or her use.

  2. MedicationAssisted Treatment (MAT) Ebook – This eBook will help you learn more about medication-assisted treatment – what it is, how it’s used, where to find it and how you can best support your child through treatment.

  3. National Institute of Drug Abuse: Treatment – Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive, or uncontrollable, drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences and changes in the brain, which can be long lasting. These changes in the brain can lead to the harmful behaviors seen in people who use drugs. Drug addiction is also a relapsing disease. Relapse is the return to drug use after an attempt to stop.
  4. Patient Guide – The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse’s step-by-step guide was created to help you navigate the vast amount of information—and misinformation - about finding addiction treatment and the questions that may arise along your journey.
  5. Questions to Ask Treatment Programs – This list of questions can help guide your conversation with treatment program staff in helping you decide which program is the best fit for your child and family.
  6. Treatment eBook: How to find the right help for your child with a drug or alcohol problem - Treatment ebook (pdf) has all the facts you need to know so that you can get the right help for your child. You will learn what alcohol and drug abuse treatment is, how to pay for treatment, how to get your child to start treatment and what you can do to help yourself and your family cope with the challenges you’re facing.
  7. Information and Referral - Bucks County Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Information and Referral


  1. Continuing Care – A Parent’s Guide to Your Teen’s Recovery from Substance Abuse

  2. Guide to Mutual Aid Resources - Find a Support Group Mutual aid is the process of giving and receiving nonclinical and nonprofessional help to achieve long-term recovery from addiction. There are mutual aid groups for people seeking, initiating and sustaining their recovery and for their families and significant others.


  1. Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction – Provides scientific information about the disease of drug addiction, including the many harmful consequences of drug abuse and the basic approaches that have been developed to prevent and treat the disease.

  2. A Focus on Heroin & Opioids: From Understanding to Action – Information to understand the opioid epidemic and how to take action.

  3. Drug Facts: Heroin – Facts from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  4. Prescription Drugs and Cold Medicines – Some medications have psychoactive (mind-altering) properties and, because of that, are sometimes abused—that is, taken for reasons or in ways or amounts not intended by a doctor, or taken by someone other than the person for whom they are prescribed. In fact, prescription and over the counter (OTC) drugs are, after marijuana (and alcohol), the most commonly abused substances by Americans 14 and older.


Bucks County Assessment Sites 

**Please note that preference for access to an assessment and for treatment occurs in this order : Pregnant, intravenous drug users;  Pregnant Illicit-drug Users;  Intravenous Drug Users; All Other Drug Users. (Note: 'Drug use'  includes alcohol and tobacco)
Aldie Counseling Center in Doylestown and Langhorne
Penn Foundation in Sellersville
TODAY, Inc.  in Bensalem and Newtown

Bucks County Adult Treatment Sites
Aldie Counseling Center in Doylestown and Langhorne
Penn Foundation in Sellersville
Livengrin in Bensalem, Doylestown, Langhorne, Levittown
TODAY, Inc.  in Bensalem and Newtown

Bucks County Recovery Community Centers

Bucks County Halfway House Sites
Good Friends

Bucks County Adolescent Treatment Sites
Aldie Counseling Center in Doylestown and Langhorne
TODAY, Inc. 
Pyramid Healthcare Quakertown

Bucks County Prevention Sites 
Bucks County Area Agency on Aging 
Bucks County Intermediate Unit #22 
The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc.
Jewish Family and Children's Services
New Hope Folebury Cares
No Longer Bound 
Penn Foundation 
TODAY, Inc. 
YWCA of Bucks County