Last year in Delaware, hundreds of people in our state died from drug overdoses. It is estimated that for every death, there are several overdoses that do not result in death. This does not include unreported incidents of those who overdosed and were revived by family or friends with Narcan. Delaware knows it has an epidemic. It is important to note, that in the majority of these cases, of those that were tested, most were found to have two or more drugs in their system.
For some time, SCHC and other partners, including B.R.I.D.G.E.S. and Shift Destiny, began to understand our landscape and the specific needs in Sussex County. We are all aware that Seaford is considered a hot spot for drug trafficking and use. Stakeholders who were working in this arena agreed that treatment, at that time, was not adequate. Additionally, systems were not aligned, and communication was fragmented. SCHC, through its Behavioral Health Task Group committee, facilitated a Stakeholders meeting to gauge interest from community partners.
We began working in focused areas with the help of former DSAMH Director, Michael Barbieri, who helped lead the charge. DSAMH provided initial funding for us to complete an environmental needs scan in Seaford. SCHC and its partners formed the Seaford Drug Free Community task group with over 27 stakeholders. The environmental scan helped us develop a comprehensive community plan for Seaford. That plan emerged with several core strategies; the first two being Awareness and Prevention. We identified a national prevention movement: The Herren Project, "Project Purple Initiative”. This group saw the power that their campaign had in bringing a April 2018 Healthy Sussex QUARTERLY community together to understand the addiction epidemic. It helps communities design local plans to address the problem, implement prevention education in its schools and empower communities to work towards change.
SCHC wrote a grant through Highmark BluePrints for the Community and is seeking additional funds to launch Drug Free Communities (DFC) Seaford Goes Purple as well as Sussex Goes Purple in September 2018.
This work is a marathon, not a sprint. It is complex, and the need is great.
Our communities will be teaming up with counties in southern Maryland as we address this serious public health crisis. It will take all of us to become aware of what is going on in our communities to truly make a difference. We all need to be educated to understand how to help those in need, advocate or increased and better service arrays and support families devasted by this disease. The prevention approach we will adopt is "Project Purple”. Our community campaign will begin with "Seaford Goes Purple” then move on to "Sussex Goes Purple”. This school-based approach will center around the Herren Project and the Botvin Life Skills curriculum. We know this will take consistent and continued effort, but we are committed, and change will come!
Together we will build our communities capacity to address this epidemic and together we will paint the town and county Purple!
Director, Sussex County Health Coalition