Tartaglione talks opioid epidemic at Tacony meeting

The senator promised to keep a vigilant watch over the state’s actions on the heroin and opioid epidemic plaguing the nation.

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The Tacony Civic Association last week welcomed state Sen. Christine Tartaglione, who discussed Gov. Tom Wolf’s declaration of the heroin and opioid epidemic as a statewide disaster emergency.

This disaster declaration gives the administration more power by being able to bypass certain regulatory laws in addressing the issue. According to Tartaglione, in 2016 4,600 Pennsylvanians died from opioid overdoses, making Pennsylvania the fourth-highest in the United States. She said the “numbers are trending upward drastically.”

“This drug does not discriminate,” said Tartaglione. “You could be wealthy, or you could be poor.” Many in attendance acknowledged the impact it has had on their community and what this declaration means to them.

Tartaglione addressed the added power Wolf has over the crisis, but swore to her constituents that she would object at times if need be.

“I am going to keep a vigilant watch to make sure they don’t bypass anything and put it in our community.”

Pennsylvania became the seventh state to declare a disaster emergency in relation to the opioid crisis, joining Maryland, Massachusetts, Alaska, Arizona, Virginia and Florida.

Time will tell if this is an effective measure by Wolf and various governors across the country, but Tartaglione remains skeptical.

“I understand what the governor’s doing and maybe across the state it’ll work, but in Philadelphia, I don’t think it will.”

Tartaglione pleaded with those in attendance, referring to them as the wall of defense. If there are any issues, she asked them to not hesitate to reach out.

People in attendance expressed skepticism over methadone clinics, and Tartaglione shared their point of view. She agreed that there has to be another alternative besides methadone treatment.

One of the hot-button topics in the city related to the opioid crisis is the possibility of “safe injection sites,” in which addicts can inject the drugs under watch of medical professionals and/or social workers.

A person in attendance asked Tartaglione, “Is it safe to say that you’re against the safe injection sites?”

Tartaglione responded with, “I don’t know where they’re going to be, and I got to make sure my community is OK or not OK with it. They have not given specific areas of where they’re going to put them. I don’t think you need one next to a methadone clinic. It has to come from the community. If you guys don’t have a problem with it, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. If you did, I represent so many people in Harrisburg. Sometimes, I might have two opposing opinions, I’ll go to the one who wants more. On the injection site, it’s all according to where they want to be and what the community says.”

Tartaglione lauded the work of law enforcement, particularly when it came to the distribution of Narcan to save people from overdosing.

Although Tartaglione didn’t exactly endorse Wolf’s emergency declaration or the idea of a safe injection site, she did vehemently support the actions being done to “stop and go’s.”

She recalled a story in which the chairman of a committee was brought to North Philadelphia to a “stop and go” and received a shot of whiskey in a Dixie cup through a glass window.

Members of Tacony’s civic demonstrated anger toward the one “stop and go” in their neighborhood and hope new legislation will crack down on specific ordinances they are not following through on.

Tartaglione also addressed the bridge recently named after slain 15th Police District community relations officer Gary Skerski and believed it was justified.

“He was a really good community relations officer,” she said. “He went above and beyond.”

The civic association also took time to discuss the prospects of the old St. Vincent Orphan Home being purchased by a realty group and made into a “riverwalk development” that could include housing and shops. Aquinas Realty is currently working on multiple redevelopment projects in the Philadelphia area, and this very well may turn into another one. Members of the civic were ecstatic of the thought of a lively development alongside the river, although this is far from certain.

Earlier that day, MaST II celebrated its steel topping at 6501 New State Road. This campus is set to open in the 2019–2020 school year and will expand to become a K-12 in years to come. MaST II is in its second year of operation in Lawncrest, but already has a wait list of 2,700 students for grades K-4.

This meeting was held at the Sons of Italy, but future meetings will be held at the new Tacony Library. ••

John Cole can be reached at JCole@bsmphilly.com