York facing uphill battle against opioid epidemic


YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – York has been notably entrenched in the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania with an estimated 70 confirmed drug deaths, 58 of which involved heroin and fentanyl so far this year.

Fentanyl caused an explosion in the epidemic with stronger and deadlier results than heroin, in a significantly smaller dosage.

The concentration amount needed of fentanyl to prove deadly is less than a hundredth the size of a penny.

York County leaders held an opioid town hall Thursday at McKendree United Methodist Church in Airville, in southeastern York County.

Kerry Smeltzer was there. He lost his son to a heroin/fentanyl overdose in November 2017 and aims to turn his tragedy into a positive push for the community, starting Nate’s Necessities.

Smeltzer believes that the organization not only keeps his son’s memory alive but keeps others alive as well.

“With the loss of our son, we thought if we could help save another life or another two lives, that’s what we’re about,” Smeltzer said.

“This is a problem area and I think the community knows that,” York County Coroner Pam Gay said.

Gay believes the area’s proximity to Maryland could be contributing to the flow of opioids – she says the problem is countywide.

“We have actually had two spikes in the months of August where we had like eight overdoses in nine days, that kind of thing,” Gay said.

One initiative that appears to work at area hospitals with overdose patients is “Warm Handoffs,” which allow families and a healthcare team make a safe transfer and admittance with full communication.

“It’s basically a certified recovery specialist who comes in, tries to get there within that first hour and tries to talk to those individuals who have overdosed about getting help, about the seriousness of what just happened,” says Gay.

The district attorney and coroner have formed the York Opioid Collaborative which helps with resources and with those who have lost someone to an overdose.

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