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Black Balloon Day remembers those lost to opioid addiction

It’s a sobering thought. According to the Adam’s County Coroner’s Office, 119 people have lost their lives in the county to opioid overdoses since 2015. Lisa Lindsey, data prevention specialist with the Center for Youth and Community Development, told the commissioners on Wednesday morning that the number of deaths in Adams County from overdoses in 2022 was 5, down 12 from the previous year.

To honor those working to improve the odds, Adam’s County Commissioners have proclaimed Black Balloon Day on Mar. 6, 2023. On that day the county’s Overdose Awareness Taskforce members will distribute free naloxone and virtual black balloons on Lincoln Square from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The vision of the taskforce is to educate the public on opioid overdose, support those who are addicted, and save lives.

Begun in Massachusetts in 2016, Black Balloon Day is a time to remember and honor those lost to opioid overdose deaths and is now an international event.

Matthew Moon, a taskforce member for the past five years, said there is a great deal of stigma regarding opioid drug use with the widespread belief that it is only prevalent among addicts and those who purchase street drugs. “But it has to do with prescription drugs: people overdosing in their own homes. It’s as simple as an elder forgetting they have already taken their medication. The prevalence of opioids in the last decade is endemic,” he said.

Gettysburg’s Mercy House offered a continuum of care for addicts provided by Recovery Advocacy  Services Empowerment which runs similar programs in other counties. However, the group could no longer offer services due to financial challenges as of Dec. 20.

Commissioner Randy Phiel hopes there will be a solution to the problem within the next two or three months. The county is interviewing other agencies that may be able to replace RASE.

Tax Collection Assistance Provided

The county treasurer’s office has taken on the role of tax collector for Bendersville Borough, Upper Adams School District, and Hamiltonban Township. The county treasurer’s office currently assists Abbottstown and Arendtsville boroughs, bringing the total number to five.

County Treasurer Christine Redding said they are unsure whether Fairfield Areas School District (FASD) will also join the growing list since those taxes were collected by the Hamiltonban tax collector, who retires at the end of February. FASD business manager Tim Stanton said the school district would address the tax collection issue at Monday’s board meeting.

“We appreciate the work you and your staff are doing as tax collectors,” Phiel commented. He said he appreciated that the treasurer’s office was committing to this challenge without additional personnel but indicated if the trend continues, more help might be necessary. Responding to a question regarding reimbursement from Commissioner Qually, Redding said her office would be receiving the same payment as independent tax collectors would get in those jurisdictions.

Other Board Business

  • The commissioners approved a Grant Agreement with the Land Conservancy of Adams County for $260,000 for the 628-acre Hartlaub Grassland Project in Mt. Pleasant Township. The funds, which will come from the county’s Parks and Recreation and Green Space Grant Program, will be augmented with $1.6 million from the federal grassland projects.
  • As part of a 10-year plan, the Department of Emergency Services will receive a one-ton ductless split system rooftop HVAC. The new system will cost nearly $100,000. It will replace the 20-year-old system, which causes humidity problems within the building.
  • An application will seek federal grant funding of $107,503 to support victim advocacy in the County between Oct. 1, 2023, and Sept. 30, 2024. There is no county match required.
  • The 2020 Community Development Block Grant between Adams County and Keystone Health will allocate $228,423 for a mobile clinic and $40,312 for a telehealth project. Both will address the needs of farm workers in rural areas of the county.

The next county commissioners’ meeting will take place Mar. 8 from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. in the county courthouse.

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Judith Cameron Seniura is a freelance reporter. She began her journalism career in the early ‘70s and has written for newspapers, magazines, and other media in Ontario, Canada, Alaska, Michigan, Nebraska, San Antonio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

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