By Aren Framil, Co-Design Editor Runners lined up at the starting point of the Chester County Color 5k on the morning of Oct. 8, waiting for the countdown. Ready… set… go! The racers set off down the Chester Valley Trail, volunteers on the sidelines spraying colorful powder onto them from all directions. Beyond a celebration...
By Aren Framil, Co-Design Editor
Runners lined up at the starting point of the Chester County Color 5k on the morning of Oct. 8, waiting for the countdown. Ready… set… go! The racers set off down the Chester Valley Trail, volunteers on the sidelines spraying colorful powder onto them from all directions. Beyond a celebration of health and happiness, this vibrant display has an important purpose: raising money and bringing awareness to the Chester County opioid and heroin epidemic.
The Color 5k is an annual run that seeks to raise money for the Community Outreach Prevention and Education (COPE) Program, one of many initiatives instated by the Chester County Department of Drug and Alcohol Services to combat the opioid crisis. Runners and walkers alike are welcome to partake in the Color 5k, and many participants run in memory of friends and family members they have lost to addiction and overdose. County Commissioner Michelle Kichline began the run six years after discovering a widespread epidemic through the community.
“Through talking to a lot of people I realized that there were a lot of families and people of different ages suffering (from an) addiction crisis, or had lost people to addiction and overdose,” Kichline said. “At the time I started, six or seven years ago, there (were) a lot of prescription opioids out there, and people were really misusing them.”
Then Kichline came across the COPE Program, an initiative that assists individuals who have suffered an opioid overdose. Instituted in every hospital in Chester County, the COPE Program provides certified recovery specialists to overdose survivors and their families, working to find the best treatment for each individual.
Beyond the COPE Program, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Services has numerous initiatives working to prevent addiction and overdose, and provide rehabilitation services to those who need it. To minimize the risk of addiction and overdose, the Department has placed drop boxes for medication, dis- tributed Narcan, a medication that can reverse opioid overdose, and hosted events such as Night of Light.
“We do a lot around public awareness. We go out and do speaking engagements, presentations to schools and churches. There’s a lot of handout materials that we send out. Also, part of what we’ve always done as part of my department is provide treatment services. And that’s not specifically for opioids, it’s for any substance, but of course, opioids over the last few years has become a primary drug,” said Vincent Brown, Executive Director of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Services.
The importance of these programs is felt the most by those who have lost a loved one to overdose. Jeanne Hill and her family commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the loss of her 29-year-old son Branden by attending the Color 5k and with their “Forever Hill” shirts. “As far as addiction pro-
grams (go), 10 years ago, there weren’t things in place for help,” Hill said. “I mean, you can get Narcan easily nowadays, there’s addiction programs in place and the help is there. You just have to reach out.”
Aren Framil can be reached at [email protected].
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