The second-smallest state in the U.S., Delaware has “sixth highest increase in overdose deaths in the country,” according to recent statistics. According to news organizations like WDEL, “more than 1,000 Delawareans have died from drug overdoses” in the course of the last four years. While opioid-related deaths constitute a public health crisis, the abuse, and suffering associated with all forms of drug abuse impact individuals, families, and communities in a number of startling ways. As the most recent drug-related crime reports convey, drug abuse encompasses entire families. It infiltrates schools. Unfortunately, even infiltrates agencies that are tasked to enforce our state and national drug laws.
Delaware County Sheriff’s Deputy Arrested
This past March, Fox 59 reported on a former Delaware County Sheriff’s Deputy who pled guilty to aiding, inducing or causing dealing in marijuana. At the time of his arrest, the deputy was still employed with Delaware County, but he resigned shortly after. Police had determined, after a year-long investigation, that Jerry Parks, the deputy in question, was “part of a major drug ring “operating in Delaware and Marion Counties.” According to the report, Parks was supplying his nephew who was also arrested and sentenced to 16 years in prison for dealing methamphetamine and heroin.
First Responders at Risk
Fortunately, headlines about drug-dealing police officers do not abound. While the Delaware sheriff’s deputy case is not isolated, it’s also not the norm. But it does highlight how insidious the drug epidemic is in many parts of the county and how it has encompassed so many different aspects of our communities. Why do police officers, with well-established careers, and other first responders sometimes get caught up in drugs? One of the theories why first responders may turn to drug use is for stress relief. First responders have high-stress jobs. Many have attempted to self-medicate with alcohol, prescription drugs, or even illicit drugs to alleviate the stress—the sometimes-traumatic stress—that can accompany their job on a daily basis.
According to some statistics, about 15-30% of first responders suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome. A further study suggests that 20% of all individuals diagnosed with this condition also have an underlying substance abuse or addiction disorder. In cities like Philadelphia and New York City, there are many programs that cater to first responders who have abuse or addiction problems. However, Delaware doesn’t just lack programs designed specifically for first responders; reports suggest it needs to do much more to provide help to residents struggling with substance addiction.
Entire Family Arrested on Drug Charges
ABC 47 reported on a Bridgeville, DE, family—a father, mother, and son—arrested on multiple drug charges. After a month of investigating, police issued a warrant and uncovered drugs at the property that include crack cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Drug paraphernalia, weapons, and suspected proceeds from the sale of the drugs were also recovered. The common perception of drug dealing is often centered on images of gangs, mafia, or smugglers; however, reports such as this underscore how drugs have infiltrated even the most sacred of our society’s pillars: the family.
Delaware’s Drug Situation
According to the most recent DEA Intelligence Report, “The primary drug threats to Delaware are heroin and diverted prescription opioids.” The report goes on to say that “In 2015, the Office of National Drug Control Policy designated New Castle County as part of the Philadelphia/Camden High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.” This high-traffic area is associated with increases in crime. Moreover, the death rate related to heroin rose 90% in a two-year period in New Castle County alone, which illustrates the seriousness of the problem for the state. Other drugs of abuse that are substantially problematic for Delaware include crack cocaine, powder cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. Prescription drugs like Fentanyl, Oxycodone, Oxycontin, and Alprazolom are also widely abused in the state.
What Is Delaware Doing to Combat Its Drug Epidemic?
In an interview with WHYY, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall Long stated that “There will be no quick fix to this long-term problem.” However, the state and its applicable agencies (i.e. state leaders, law enforcement professionals) are now partnering with organizations like Pew Charitable Trusts to determine improved strategies for coping with the problem. As a result, the state is making plans to:
- Expand its medically assisted treatment programs in correctional facilities
- Improve payment (payments to providers have been notoriously delayed) to providers of medically assisted treatment programs
- Expanding access to the drug Naloxone
- Expanded prosecution efforts of drug rings
- Raise the age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21
- Curtail prescriptions of prescription opioids
- Pass legislation to create “stabilization centers” (that offer medication-assisted treatment and addiction counseling)
- Support expansions of addiction treatment capabilities in emergency rooms
- Provide state funding for first responders’ use of naloxone
- Provide assistance to help individuals locate immediate treatment for their addiction
- Expansion of sober living facilities
- Initiation of high school recovery programs
Even so, the Delaware DOJ has stated that the state needs to invest more dollars into combating the crisis. According to the DOJ, Delaware needs to expand long-term residential care for addiction treatment and provide more sober-living communities.
More Help Is Needed
As Delaware’s legislators struggle to address the opioid crisis from the state level, individuals and families are left coping on their own. Relapse rates for opioid use are high—well over 80% even after treatment. Long-term treatment is often the key to lasting recovery, but as the Delaware DOJ lamented, there simply aren’t enough beds across the state to accommodate all those who need inpatient treatment. One thing is certain, however, without professional addiction treatment delivered by qualified addiction specialists, the condition is likely to progress. The risk of overdose is ever-present, but long-term or acute periods of substance abuse can disastrously detract from both physical and mental health. There is no cure for substance addiction except for abstinence—and there is simply—and statistics back this up—little chance for recovery without some form of help to manage this chronic disease.
Quality Addiction Treatment
Many individuals in states like Delaware are looking for addiction treatment centers that have evidence-based treatments that can help them recover from their addiction. FHE Health is located in South Florida and features both inpatient and outpatient treatment programs. The behavioral healthcare specialists at FHE Health take a comprehensive approach to disease management. They offer a full continuum of care for individuals that extends far beyond that initial week of detox. They understand that addiction recovery is a long-term process, and they feature programs and treatments that support recovering individuals every step of the way.
Residents of Delaware—or any other state—can seek help from FHE Health. The center accepts various forms of insurance; some clients choose to pay out of pocket. It can be helpful to leave one’s home setting for a period of time to obtain treatment in order to leave negative influences behind and focus entirely on treatment—on getting well. Medical detox, counseling, sober living—these are aspects of addiction treatment and recovery that FHE Health supports. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction in a city like Wilmington, DE, or anywhere else, it’s essential to seek help at a qualified treatment center like FHE Health.