FALLS TOWNSHIP >> In an effort to “chip away” at the number of overdoses each year in Falls, the township’s police department this week will begin implementing the Falls Township Supporting Recovery Program.
The co-responder model of policing pairs a certified recovery specialist with a Falls Township police officer for overdose and calls related to substance abuse.
Police Chief Nelson Whitney, who listed overdoses as one of the top causes of death in Falls, said his department has been working on the effort since September. Falls Township Police is the first department in Bucks County to implement the program, he said.
Since 2010, there have been 854 overdoses in Falls Township, according to Whitney. Of those, 131 were fatal, he said. While fatal drug overdoses have been decreasing, Whitney said the number of overdoses continue to increase. In 2019, the department responded to 105 overdoses and in 2020 handled 123 overdoses.
“For years we’ve been trying to chip away at what we can do to make this better,” he said during Tuesday’s virtual Supervisors meeting. “This kind of next levels it.”
The program is funded completely through a grant from the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission Inc. As part of the Falls Township Supporting Recovery Program, the commission pays the salaries of the Family Service Association of Bucks County’s certified recovery specialists assigned to work with the police department.
“This is a good thing for Falls Township,” Supervisors Chairman Jeff Dence said.
Supervisors Vice Chairman Jeff Boraski echoed the sentiment and said Whitney is “passionate” about the initiative.
As part of the collaborative effort, certified recovery specialists would work in Falls full-time hours Monday through Friday. In addition to joining police in responding to substance abuse and overdose-related calls, certified recovery specialists would provide emergency medical care, promote treatment, and provide follow up focusing on access to care, transition in care, support for long-term recovery, access to health care benefits and providing connections to physical health related needs.
“All the data indicates that when a person is in that moment of crisis the best time to connect them with treatment is then,” Whitney told the Supervisors. “We have high hopes that this program will help the people suffering in this community.”