Overdose deaths continue to rise in Chester County. As of July 31, 2017, 83 overdose deaths (including 1 homicide) had been reported. Carfentanil, a new super-potent and deadly synthetic opioid, recently showed up for the first time in this County. The rising number of overdoses and overdose deaths in our County concerns everyone in our community. Many have been directly impacted by the disease of addiction. Others rightly fear that they, their families, friends, or employees are vulnerable.
A community-wide problem requires a community-wide solution. Chester County is fortunate to have many government and non-profit organizations focused on the opioid crisis. We also have first responders doing great work saving lives every day. The coroner is the only elected official with direct public health responsibilities. As coroner, therefore, I will ensure that the coroner’s office becomes part of the solution to this devastating epidemic.
All violent deaths in Chester County are investigated by the Coroner. There have been 3 homicides and at least 16 suicides involving firearms so far this year in Chester County. Nationwide, certain populations are more vulnerable to gun violence than others. Veterans, for example, have experienced an increasing suicide rate in recent years and more than 1300 American children a year die from gunshot wounds.
I am not anti-gun ownership. In fact, since the work of the Coroner brings her in close contact with guns and gun violence, I have made it my business to get trained on the safe use of a firearm. Along with many others, however, I think Pennsylvania needs to strengthen its lax gun ownership laws. Anyone who purchases a gun should first pass a background check. A permit should be required to carry a gun at any time, not just for “concealed carry” or for carrying in a motor vehicle. Above all, there should be greater emphasis on gun safety: at a minimum, a basic gun safety training course should be a prerequisite to getting a gun permit. At the national level, the federal government should stop prohibiting gun violence research by agencies like the Centers for Disease Control. These common-sense proposals don’t violate Second Amendment rights, but do lower the risk of senseless violent deaths.
Everyone has a right to affordable quality health care from the health care provider of their choice. America’s patchwork quilt of health care is full of holes that leave people physically and financially vulnerable and our country weaker, less productive, and less entrepreneurial.
Unequal and inadequate health care is one of the reasons U.S. life expectancy is no longer keeping up with that of other developed countries. Drug overdose deaths continue to rise, in part due to the lack of resources for addiction treatment. Women without health insurance are 3-4 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications. U.S. infant mortality rates are too high and show racial disparities.
The Affordable Care has increased the number of people with health insurance coverage and needs to be supported as a bridge to a more comprehensive and sustainable national health policy. Instead, it is being sabotaged by the Trump administration and the Republican Congress. Our goal should remain a health system that provides affordable quality care for everyone and lowers the cost of health care services and products. Real improvements to our health care system will not happen as long as health care policy is determined only by a few politicians in Washington. Health care policy needs significant input from those on the front lines, including patients, hospitals, physicians, and nurses.