In Falls Township, there have been 854 overdoses since 2010. Of that total, 131 were fatal. Despite a recent decline in drug-related deaths, addiction remains a prevalent issue. According to Police Chief Nelson Whitney, his department responded to 105 overdoses in 2019, and 123 in 2020.
In an effort to flatten this devastating curve, the Falls police department recently launched the Falls Township Supporting Recovery Program. This co-responder model of policing pairs a certified recovery specialist with a Falls Township police officer for calls related to overdose and substance abuse.
“For years, we’ve been trying to chip away at what we can do to make this better,” Whitney explained during a recent Falls Township board of supervisors meeting. “This kind of next levels it.”
Whitney said his department began working in September on the program, which is the first of its kind in the county. It’s fully funded through a Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission grant. 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.
The supervisors voiced their support for the initiative.
“This is a good thing for Falls Township,” said chairman Jeff Dence.
As part of the collaborative effort, certified recovery specialists work in the township full-time, Monday through Friday. In addition to joining police in responding to substance abuse- and overdose-related calls, the certified recovery specialists will provide emergency medical care and promote treatment. They’ll also provide follow-up services by focusing on access to care, transition in care, support for long-term recovery, access to healthcare benefits and 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,” said Whitney. “We have high hopes that this program will help the people suffering in this community.”
In other news, the supervisors adopted an ordinance during the meeting that prohibits smoking on any township-owned property, except in designated areas. This ordinance change mirrors what was enacted at township-owned parks, which prohibits smoking on and near playgrounds.
“The township campus is going to be smoke-free,” said Dence, adding that the Falls Township Municipal Complex does not have designated smoking areas. “This is something we’ve been talking about for a while.”
According to the ordinance, smoking includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, other lighted smoking instruments and vaping.
Next on the agenda, the board authorized advertisement to accept bids for roller hockey rink upgrades at Falls Township Community Park. Bids will be opened on March 11, with construction expected to begin around May 3.
Upgrades are slated to improve the look and function of the space by resurfacing the rink, replacing the dasher board, restoring the fencing, painting, marking the surface and sealing cracks.
The supervisors hope most of the costs will be covered by a state grant. Last year, they applied for a Greenways, Trails and Recreation Program grant through the Commonwealth Financing Authority. Brian Andrews, director of Parks & Recreation, said the township expects to hear a decision soon. If awarded, the grant should cover $138,988 of the total $163,516, with Falls Township contributing the remaining funds.
Also during the meeting, the supervisors approved a $5,200 proposal from F.X. Browne Inc. for completion of the township’s annual Act 101 recycling grant application for 2020. The grant writing proposal is expected to substantially pay the township much more than its initial investment. In 2019, Falls received more than $50,000, according to finance director Betsy Reukauf.
“It definitely pays for itself,” said Dence. “$5,200 is a great investment.”
Grant amounts are based on total tonnage for residential and commercial properties. As part of its proposal, F.X. Browne Inc. will obtain valid documentation needed for the application. The company has submitted the township’s grant applications for 20 years.
Residents and businesses are encouraged to recycle as much material as possible. Dence said that every little bit helps increase the amount of potential grant funds. Haulers make it easier to recycle with single-stream recycling, which allows for paper, plastic and cans to be co-mingled in the same container. Recycling materials can be placed in any receptacle, provided it’s marked as being recycling and not mistaken for trash. Falls has 22-gallon and 32-gallon recycling containers available for purchase at the municipal building.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org