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Increased Drug Use by Whites Due to Access to Opioid Prescriptions Rather Than Economic Conditions, Concludes New Study

Increased Drug Use by Whites Due to Access to Opioid Prescriptions Rather Than Economic Conditions, Concludes New Study | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

LIFE expectancy in America declined for the second year running in 2016 according to data recently released by the Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC). Unsurprisingly, one major cause was the opioid epidemic. The CDC reported that deaths from drug overdoses rose from 16,848 in 1999 to 63,632 in 2016. The increase was particularly steep among those aged 55 to 64, for whom death rates increased six-fold over that period. Mortality from opioids designed for pain relief spiked from about one-fifth to over one half of total drug deaths.


This grim epidemic has often been blamed on economic conditions. But a new paper by Christopher Ruhm at the University of Virginia suggests that economic conditions can only help explain a small fraction of the increase in drug mortality rates.


Mr Ruhm’s recent work suggests that, over the long term, economic conditions are a comparatively small factor behind drug mortality rates. Deaths have spiked in communities where economic conditions are relatively good and amongst racial groups (whites) that have seen comparatively limited economic insecurity. Mr Ruhm’s results suggest that “deaths of despair” do not account for more than one-tenth of the rise in drug and opioid-involved mortality rates.


Neither unemployment and poverty rates, median household incomes, or exposure to imports were significantly related to suicide and alcohol deaths in Mr Ruhm’s study, while house prices were only weakly related. Another finding points to the more important factor behind increased drug use: whites were more affected than non-whites. The reason? White people were more widely being prescribed opioids in the first place. The epidemic is caused by access to drugs rather than economic conditions.


Further Reading:

 “Attacking the Root of the Opioid Crisis - Pharmaceutical Companies”; http://bit.ly/2waNC4w ;

 “Newtown Has a 24/7 Drug Drop Box”; http://bit.ly/2nyCKuS

johnmacknewtown's insight:
If we have any hope of fighting America’s opioid crisis, the federal government, medical community, and pharmaceutical companies must continue to hold themselves accountable for their roles in the epidemic.
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Out with the Old NewPA Congressional Map, In with the New PA Congressional Map!

Out with the Old NewPA Congressional Map, In with the New PA Congressional Map! | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday released a new congressional map, which will be used for 2018 elections. The map is likely to be challenged by Republicans, who have indicated they'll fight it in federal court, sources say.


The map was ordered to be redrawn by the state Supreme Court in January, when it determined the current district boundaries, drawn in 2011, were unconstitutional due to gerrymandering in favor of the Republicans.


Multiple sources say Republican leaders in the General Assembly are expected to attempt to challenge the map, but as PennLive.com reports, "unless and until they actually prevail in that challenge, these are the new lines effective with the 2018 election cycle."

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Nothing Good Will Come of Assisting Feds on Immigration, Says Bucks County Courier Times Guest Opinion

Nothing Good Will Come of Assisting Feds on Immigration, Says Bucks County Courier Times Guest Opinion | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

A meeting of Bensalem Council on Jan. 22 was attended by a couple hundred people. We were there to protest public safety Director Fred Harran’s intention to apply for 287(g), a federal program that trains local law enforcement to perform the duties of U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) officers.


[Read: “Crowd Urges Bensalem to Opt Out of Proposed Immigration Program”; http://sco.lt/7muoXR]


Bensalem residents who are Hispanic, black, Jewish and of other nationalities converged to voice their opposition, concerns and fears. One woman said that police have already been harassing her Hispanic husband.


As much as Harran doesn’t want to believe racism exists among Bensalem police officers. How can they know what’s in someone’s heart and mind? Harran feels 287(g) will make police procedures easier and faster.


However, the American Immigration Council describes 287(g) as follows: “Deputized officers are authorized to interview individuals to ascertain their immigration status; check DHS (Department of Homeland) Security databases for information on individuals; issue immigration detainers to hold individuals until ICE takes custody; enter data into ICE’s database and case management system; issue a Notice to Appear (the official charging document that begins the removal process).”


The 287(g) will add high costs to our township’s already high debt. According to the Government Accountability Office, “62 percent of local law enforcement agencies had ‘more than $1 million in unreimbursed costs a year’ due to 287(g).”


The American Immigration Council similarly states, “287(g) has been costly for localities, has not focused on serious criminals and has harmed the relationship between police and local communities.”


The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy — a think tank founded during the civil rights movement by associates of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — compiled countless studies on 287(g).


“Local immigration enforcement is misguided as a crime control strategy and is counterproductive to public safety. It furthers the federal enforcement agenda in conflict with local goals of upholding public safety to building relationships between residents and municipal institutions.”

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Cross Culture Indian Cuisine Opening Newtown Location

Cross Culture Indian Cuisine Opening Newtown Location | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it
New Indian Food Restaurant Opening In Newtown - Newtown, PA - If you love Indian cuisine, you're in for a treat. The highly-regarded Cross Culture is making its way to Newtown later this year.
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Merck Chemist Dumped Potassium Cyanide in Storm Drain in Effort to Avoid Arrest!

Merck Chemist Dumped Potassium Cyanide in Storm Drain in Effort to Avoid Arrest! | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Bucks County chemist is accused of stealing more than 200 grams of a deadly chemical from his employer and later dumping it into a stormwater drain in Bucks County, authorities announced on Tuesday.


Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele announced on Tuesday that Richard O'Rourke, 60, of Warrington, Bucks County, told authorities that he dumped 219.79 grams of potassium cyanide into a stormwater inlet in Bucks County in December after his employer at the time, Merck & Co., became suspicious that he had taken it and an investigation was launched. The lethal dose for potassium cyanide is 200-300 mg.


The alleged incident sparked a two-week period of testing and monitoring stormwater systems, outfalls, retention, waterways and their tributaries in the Philadelphia area earlier this winter, according to an affidavit from the Upper Gwynedd Township Police Department.


But officials said the significant rainfall that fell several days after O'Rourke allegedly dumped the chemical should have been able to flush it out of any stormwater inlet. The state Department of Environmental Protection concluded that the chemical would've been diluted and washed out, according to the affidavit. 


Officials ended their investigation on Dec. 29 and say they found no evidence to suggest that potassium cyanide had contaminated drinking water or that the alleged dumping caused a toxic impact in any way. 

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Farm-to-Table Restaurant Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar Open for Business in Newtown

Farm-to-Table Restaurant Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar Open for Business in Newtown | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Restaurateur Dave Magrogan continued the expansion of his popular farm-to-table restaurant concept with the opening of his eighth Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar in Newtown, PA on Monday, February 5th.


Eager to open his newest Harvest location in the Philadelphia suburbs, Magrogan said, "I'm thrilled to open our newest Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar in Newtown, Bucks County. Our team is intensely focused on producing healthy, delicious, locally-sourced menu items that are crafted from the freshest seasonal ingredients. We're excited to bring our seasonally-changing restaurant to life in Newtown, and we couldn't do so without all of the local farmers who are the heart of our business model. We are also very excited to bring Tim Amoroso over to this new location. He is an inspired chef who helped us achieve all of our goals in North Wales during this past year, and we expect him to delight our guests in Bucks County."


With the restaurant's business model featuring all farm-to-table dishes, Harvest Seasonal Grill Corporate Executive Chef Josh Short explains that there is a much different approach to sourcing locally harvested produce during the winter than any other season, as the restaurant will be opening during the coldest time of the year. 


"There are still many great locally-grown crops available throughout these colder months," said Short. "It used to be that root vegetables were the only go-to veggies for chefs during the winter, but with many northeastern farmers over the years having turned to greenhouse farming after the first frost, we now have full availability of vegetables such as salad greens, micro herbs, peppers and even tomatoes during the winter. Pennsylvania also continues to offer amazing local cheeses and grains year-round, and we also take full opportunity of preserving the flavors from the summer and fall through pickling and canning. We even have plans to start a fermentation program in our kitchens next year."


Harvest works with The Farm at Doe Run and Linden Dale Farm for cheeses, while sourcing its grains, including farro, cornmeal and flour, from Bucks County's own Castle Valley Mill.

johnmacknewtown's insight:
On Friday, January 26, 2018, my wife and I  attended "VIP Night" at Harvest Grill in Newtown. The food and wine were free with a suggested donation of $20 that went to a charity. I took the opportunity to take a selfie with Dave Magrogan who thanked the Newtown Supervisors - many of whom were present -  for all their help in paving the way for the restaurant to open in Newtown. We were invited again on February 2, 2018, for the "soft opening" for staff training with a limited menu. There was no charge for the food, which was delicious. I had Stuffed Bone-In Duroc Pork Chop with whipped sweet potatoes. I wondered where the pork was "harvested." It was excellent. I also had the butternut squash soup. Perhaps a bit over the top with the orange foodstuffs!
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Bucks Commissioners Plan Civil Suit Against Opioid Makers

Bucks Commissioners Plan Civil Suit Against Opioid Makers | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Bucks County commissioners approved Wednesday the hiring of a New York City-based law firm to file a civil claim against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid drugs.


Scott & Scott LLC will work on the case on a contingency fee basis, contracted to collect 22.5 percent of any financial recovery from the suit, plus costs. They represent several other governmental entities in opioid lawsuits against drugmakers, but their only other current Pennsylvania client is Mercer County.

“The horrific cost of human life is impossible to replace, and the ruin of families and communities is tough to rebuild,” said Commissioner Chairman Rob Loughery Wednesday morning. “Nothing is more important than a human life, but we have responsibilities as a county, and the cost we are bearing is astronomical. We are doing everything we can to fight the epidemic, to provide treatment and the services people need. But you have this whole issue of supply and manufacturing that is the leading cause of this. We believe this is an important route for us to take and another resource in our toolbox.”


Further Reading: 

• Attacking the Root of the Opioid Crisis - Pharmaceutical Companies: http://bit.ly/2tEHoNT ;

 • Wolf declares opioid crisis a state disaster emergency: http://bit.ly/2EpGxVP ;

 • Pennsylvania Underestimates Death Due to Opioids by More Than Half!: http://sco.lt/8JwGcj ;

 • The Other Cost of the Opioid Epidemic: Increased Taxes: http://bit.ly/opiodsandtaxes ;

 • PA Attorney General Subpoenas Opioid Producers: http://bit.ly/2Es2Ytf ;

 • Bensalem First Local Government to Sue Opioid Manufacturers: http://bit.ly/2BLA8U6

johnmacknewtown's insight:
While I am appreciative of all that Bucks County is doing to help fight the opioid epidemic, I think creating a 6-person drug task force at a cost of nearly a million dollars per year is a tactic that has been used before - i.e., the "war on drugs" - and it has proven to be a failure. Meanwhile Bucks County residents are going to be stuck with the taxes to pay for this no matter the outcome of the civial case.
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If You Believe Gerry Couch, I Have a Bridge to Sell You!

If You Believe Gerry Couch, I Have a Bridge to Sell You! | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Former Newtown Township Supervisor Gerry Couch engaged in a despicable misrepresentation of the facts in order to undermine the trust in and respect for the new Board of Supervisors!


The letter claims that taxes are “going up $168” for the average household. Only the owner of a house valued at $1.68 Million will see Newtown taxes “go up” $168 in 2018. As for the average Joe like me, whose house is valued at $340,000, the tax will “go up” $34! I could save two to six times that by switching to a different trash pickup company!


This is a particularly telling “mistake” because Mr. Couch is a financial planner and was the Assistant Treasurer while on the Board of Supervisors. So you would think he knows how to transform a 1-mill tax increase into a dollar amount for the average household.

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It’s Going to Be a “War Zone” Out There for Republican Candidates in 2018 Especially in PA

It’s Going to Be a “War Zone” Out There for Republican Candidates in 2018 Especially in PA | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

For Republicans in the states, the political warning signs keep mounting: In Virginia, it was an electoral shellacking that nearly snapped their 20-year grip on the State House. In Wisconsin, it was a midwinter rout in a special election for the State Senate, fought in a conservative district.


And in Pennsylvania, it has been an exodus of state legislators from the Philadelphia area, where more than half a dozen Republicans have opted for retirement over a strenuous campaign in 2018.


“It looks like it’s going to be a war zone,” said State Representative Gene DiGirolamo, a moderate Republican, of his native Bucks County, a spacious suburb on the New Jersey border.


As national Republicans dig in to defend their majorities in Congress in the midterm elections, party leaders across the country have grown anxious about losses on a different front: state legislatures. Over the last decade, Republicans have dominated most state capitals, enacting deep tax cuts, imposing new regulations on labor unions and abortion providers, and drawing favorable congressional maps to reinforce their power in Washington.


Yet that dominance appears to be fraying, strained by the same forces taxing Republicans in Congress. National strategists in both parties see the landscape of legislative races expanding, especially in areas around major cities where President Trump has stirred an insurrection among liberals, and college-educated voters and white women have recoiled from Republicans.


“The spending is real. The organizational prowess is real. And the energy is real.”


That energy was on raucous display last weekend in the Bucks County borough of Newtown, where well over 100 Democrats packed into a red-brick tavern to cheer Steve Santarsiero, a Democrat seeking a State Senate seat left open by a Republican’s unexpected retirement. Before a lively breakfast crowd, Mr. Santarsiero needled Mr. Trump and hailed his fellow Democrats running for the legislature’s multiplying number of open seats. 


Applauding from the front was Helen Tai, an official in nearby Solebury who is running in a May special election for the State House prompted by a Republican’s resignation. Democrats nearly swept local elections in four counties outside Philadelphia last November; Ms. Tai said the combination of Republican retirements and liberal enthusiasm had transformed the fight for the legislature. 


At a meeting of the liberal group Indivisible in Eagleville, Pa., last month, Democratic activists railed not just against Mr. Trump, but also against Republicans in Harrisburg, the state capital, accusing them of wringing money from suburban voters while neglecting local schools and infrastructure. Katie Muth, a leader of the group who is running for State Senate, declared from the front of a Unitarian church that 2018 was the moment to “save Pennsylvania.”

johnmacknewtown's insight:
I was at the Temperance House when Santarsiero made his presentation. The only comment I have is that he did NOT mention the opioid epidemic in PA as something he would work hard to end.
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Ex-solicitor charged with lying to FBI in Lower Southampton corruption probe

Ex-solicitor charged with lying to FBI in Lower Southampton corruption probe | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Former Lower Southampton solicitor Michael J. Savona has been charged with lying to federal investigators in connection with a corruption probe involving a trio of public officials.


Savona was charged Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia with a single count of making false statements to investigators, according to court records.


The charging papers say Savona in December 2016 lied to FBI agents about a scheme involving an alleged $10,000 bribe to be paid by marketing salesman Robert DeGoria to John Waltman, then a district judge, and Robert Hoopes, who was public safety director in the township, to lock in a reduced price for the construction of a lighted billboard.


Prosecutors say the bribe was to be paid to Raff’s Consulting, a company owned by former deputy state constable Bernard Rafferty.  


DeGoria, former vice president of asset development for marketing firm Catalyst Outdoor, was charged early in this month with lying to both the FBI and IRS in a November 2016 interview about his discussions with Waltman and Hoopes as well as the payment to Rafferty’s firm. 


Related: “Catalyst Outdoor Advertising Paid Kickback to Lower Southhampton Solicitor. The Same Company Made Two Pitches to the Newtown BOS in 2016”; http://sco.lt/7zzZJZ

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Increased Drug Use by Whites Due to Access to Opioid Prescriptions Rather Than Economic Conditions, Concludes New Study

Increased Drug Use by Whites Due to Access to Opioid Prescriptions Rather Than Economic Conditions, Concludes New Study | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

LIFE expectancy in America declined for the second year running in 2016 according to data recently released by the Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC). Unsurprisingly, one major cause was the opioid epidemic. The CDC reported that deaths from drug overdoses rose from 16,848 in 1999 to 63,632 in 2016. The increase was particularly steep among those aged 55 to 64, for whom death rates increased six-fold over that period. Mortality from opioids designed for pain relief spiked from about one-fifth to over one half of total drug deaths.


This grim epidemic has often been blamed on economic conditions. But a new paper by Christopher Ruhm at the University of Virginia suggests that economic conditions can only help explain a small fraction of the increase in drug mortality rates.


Mr Ruhm’s recent work suggests that, over the long term, economic conditions are a comparatively small factor behind drug mortality rates. Deaths have spiked in communities where economic conditions are relatively good and amongst racial groups (whites) that have seen comparatively limited economic insecurity. Mr Ruhm’s results suggest that “deaths of despair” do not account for more than one-tenth of the rise in drug and opioid-involved mortality rates.


Neither unemployment and poverty rates, median household incomes, or exposure to imports were significantly related to suicide and alcohol deaths in Mr Ruhm’s study, while house prices were only weakly related. Another finding points to the more important factor behind increased drug use: whites were more affected than non-whites. The reason? White people were more widely being prescribed opioids in the first place. The epidemic is caused by access to drugs rather than economic conditions.


Further Reading:

 “Attacking the Root of the Opioid Crisis - Pharmaceutical Companies”; http://bit.ly/2waNC4w ;

 “Newtown Has a 24/7 Drug Drop Box”; http://bit.ly/2nyCKuS

johnmacknewtown's insight:
If we have any hope of fighting America’s opioid crisis, the federal government, medical community, and pharmaceutical companies must continue to hold themselves accountable for their roles in the epidemic.
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Newtown Area Sees 20% Increase in DUI and Drug Cases from 2016 to 2017 According to District Judge Petrucci

Newtown Area Sees 20% Increase in DUI and Drug Cases from 2016 to 2017 According to District Judge Petrucci | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

District Judge Mick Petrucci, who has served two full years of his six-year term, provided an update on activity within the local courts last year, saying there are some alarming trends within the community that he is hoping to address with increased education.


According to data provided by Petrucci, underage drinking cases that went through Newtown District Court, which covers Newtown Township, Newtown Borough, Wrightstown Township and Upper Makefield Township, spiked by roughly 400 percent from 2016 to 2017.


Petrucci calls underage drinking "the biggest issue that I believe we are facing within our Council Rock community."


"We had a very busy summer with juveniles in this district court," Petrucci said. As a result, he's working to support educational resources for the children in the community, including Council Rock Coalition for Healthy Youth.


It's not just the youth that are coming into court at higher rates. There was a 20 percent increase in drug cases at Petrucci's court from 2016 to 2017. DUI cases rose 20 percent over the same time period, he notes.

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Can underage drinking lead to drug abuse?
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Addiction and Opiate Awareness Education: What Your Community Needs to Know. Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at St Andrew School, Newtown, PA

Addiction and Opiate Awareness Education: What Your Community Needs to Know. Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at St Andrew School, Newtown, PA | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Eventbrite - Bucks County presents Addiction and Opiate Awareness Education:What Your Community Needs to Know - Tuesday, March 20, 2018 at St Andrew School, Newtown, PA. Find event and ticket information.


Residents of Bucks County can attend a free community session to learn about signs and symptoms of addiction & opiate overdose, how to use the opiate overdose-reversal medication Narcan, and learn about community resources. The presentation will provide substance abuse trending information seen in Bucks County. Attendees will receive a free dose of Narcan, the first 50 registrants attending the presentation will receive a free combination medication locking container.

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State's 3rd Marijuana Dispensary Approved Near Newtown

State's 3rd Marijuana Dispensary Approved Near Newtown | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The state's third medical marijuana dispensary has been approved just miles from Bucks County. Ilera Healthcare in Plymouth Meeting is expected to be ready to sell within the next four months, officials said.

"With each announcement of dispensary approvals, we are getting closer to providing medical marijuana to patients with serious medical conditions who desperately need this medication," Governor Wolf said in a statement. "Once the growing process is completed and the dispensary receives medication, patients and caregivers with medical marijuana identification cards will be able to purchase medication."

Patients that have a medical marijuana identification card will be able to purchase at Ilera. To get a card, you must first be approved by a doctor participating in the program. There are 24 doctors in Bucks County who have been approved to participate in the state's medical marijuana program. See the list here: http://bit.ly/2GmqiqP ;

johnmacknewtown's insight:
Visit http://johnmacknewtown.info for more information about drug addiction and what Newtown is doing about it. Also, subscribe to my email newsletter: http://bit.ly/SubscribeJMackNews
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Two Newtown Township Police Sergeants Graduate from the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command | Newtown Township Police Department

Two Newtown Township Police Sergeants Graduate from the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command | Newtown Township Police Department | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Left to right: Detective Sergeant Harris, Sergeant Joseph, Chief Pasqaulini, Township Manager Kurt Ferguson



We would like to congratulate Newtown Township Police Department Detective Sergeant Jason Harris and Sergeant Christian Joseph for graduating from the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command as part of Class #246. Both sergeants managed to attend the program on a part time basis while still maintaining their normal responsibilities within the department. The program was hosted at the Bucks County Public Safety Training Center in Doylestown from October 9, 2017 through February 16, 2018 and was attended along with 40 other law enforcement professionals from throughout the area.


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USDA Awards $17.5M to Fight Invasive Lanternfly in Southeast PA

USDA Awards $17.5M to Fight Invasive Lanternfly in Southeast PA | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this month it is awarding $17.5 million to try and stop the spread of the invasive spotted lanternfly in southeast Pennsylvania.


Also read: “Be on Look Out for the Spotted Lanternfly!”; http://bit.ly/2Ctaxem

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Former Newtown Supervisor Who Questioned Spending $9300 to Improve Veterans Park in Newtown Says $20M is "Small Potatoes" to Spend on a Military Parade!

Former Newtown Supervisor Who Questioned Spending $9300 to Improve Veterans Park in Newtown Says $20M is "Small Potatoes" to Spend on a Military Parade! | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

In a Letter to the Editor in the February 15, 2017, issue of the Bucks County Courier Times, Coauch said: "I understand, and my fiscal responsibility genes do get fired up. But really, to spend $12-$20 million, that’s small potatoes!"

johnmacknewtown's insight:
“I think you have a lot more in there that could be considered [for cutting],” said Couch at a December 13, 2017, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting, He brought up as an example improvements to Veteran’s Park, including installation of bleachers in four fields, a 50-foot flagpole with lights, and pocket playgrounds for children.
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Opioid Manufacturers Paid Millions to Groups That Lobbied for More Opioid Usage, Senate Investigation Claims

Opioid Manufacturers Paid Millions to Groups That Lobbied for More Opioid Usage, Senate Investigation Claims | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

“It’s appalling that some companies deliberately misled patients and doctors, helping to fuel the epidemic we have today," Senator Claire McCaskill told Newsweek.


Major opioid manufacturers paid millions of dollars to groups that lobbied for increased opioid usage in the last five years, a Senate investigation claimed on Monday.


The investigation explored the financial ties between major opioid manufacturers and advocacy groups working in opioid policy. It found that many of the advocacy groups may have "played a significant role" in the U.S. opioid epidemic. Between 2012 and 2017, five companies that produce top opioid products—Purdue, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Mylan, Insys Therapeutics and Depomed—together paid $8.8 million to 14 organizations that, according to the report, promoted opioid prescription, attempted to downplay the risk of addiction to opioids and lobbied against restrictions on overprescription.


“Many of these opioid manufacturers engaged in a long, systemic campaign to increase prescriptions and profits at the expense of the American public,” Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who spearheaded the investigation, told Newsweek. “It’s appalling that some companies deliberately misled patients and doctors, helping to fuel the epidemic we have today.” 


Executive Summary of the Report 

This report provides the first comprehensive snapshot of the financial connections between opioid manufacturers and advocacy groups and professional societies operating in the area of opioids policy. Drawing on disclosures from Purdue Pharma L.P., Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Mylan N.V., Depomed, Inc., and Insys Therapeutics, Inc., in response to requests from Ranking Member McCaskill, the sections below describe nearly $9 million in payments from these manufacturers to 14 outside groups working on chronic pain and other opioid-related issues between 2012 and 2017. In addition, physicians affiliated with these groups accepted more than $1.6 million in payments from the five manufacturers between 2013 and the present. In total, the five manufacturers have made more than $10 million in payments to these groups and affiliated individuals since January 2012.


Initiatives from the groups in this report often echoed and amplified messages favorable to increased opioid use—and ultimately, the financial interests of opioid manufacturers. These groups have issued guidelines and policies minimizing the risk of opioid addiction and promoting opioids for chronic pain, lobbied to change laws directed at curbing opioid use, and argued against accountability for physicians and industry executives responsible for overprescription and misbranding. Notably, a majority of these groups also strongly criticized 2016 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that recommended limits on opioid prescriptions for chronic pain—the first national standards for prescription opioids and a key federal response to the ongoing epidemic.


The fact that these same manufacturers provided millions of dollars to the groups described below suggests, at the very least, a direct link between corporate donations and the advancement of opioids friendly messaging. By aligning medical culture with industry goals in this way, many of the groups described in this report may have played a significant role in creating the necessary conditions for the U.S. opioids epidemic.


Further Reading: “Attacking the Root of the Opioid Crisis - Pharmaceutical Companies”; http://bit.ly/2waNC4w

“Newtown Has a 24/7 Drug Drop Box”; http://bit.ly/2nyCKuS


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Medical Marijuana Can Save Lives - Here's the Evidence

Medical Marijuana Can Save Lives - Here's the Evidence | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

This week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions paused a discussion of the opioid epidemic to, once again, go after marijuana. He suggested that addictive pain medication wasn’t the only problem and that many heroin addicts start out “with marijuana and other drugs.”

 

There is a relationship between cannabis and opioids, but Mr. Sessions has it backward. Marijuana isn’t a gateway drug to opioid addiction; it’s a safer alternative to pain medicines. Mr. Sessions’s vow to crack down on marijuana will only make the opioid epidemic worse.

 

We know that 40 percent of all opiate overdose deaths involve a prescription opiate. So having legal access to cannabis as another option for pain relief may actually reduce consumption of opiates.

 

I know it sounds counterintuitive, but consider the evidence. To start, a large study assessed the effect of medical-marijuana laws on opiate-related deaths between 1999 and 2010 in all 50 states and reported a 25 percent decrease in opiate overdose mortality in states where medical marijuana was legal, compared with those where it wasn’t. The study found that in 2010, medical-marijuana laws resulted in an estimated 1,729 fewer deaths than expected.

 

Other epidemiologic studies found similar results. A study published last year examined opiate-related deaths in Colorado between 2000 and 2015. Researchers compared mortality rates before and after the state legalized recreational cannabis in 2014. For controls, they chose two nearby states: Nevada, which legalized only medical cannabis, and Utah, where all cannabis use is illegal. The study found a 6.5 percent drop in opiate-related deaths after recreational cannabis became legal in Colorado.

 

Likewise, other researchers examined the link between medical cannabis and opiate use in a group of patients with chronic pain in New Mexico, one of the states hardest hit by the opioid crisis. They reported that subjects who had access to medical cannabis were 17 times more likely to stop using opiates for pain compared with those not using cannabis.

 

Because these are all observational studies, they cannot prove a causal link between cannabis use and lower opiate-related mortality. Still, the consistent epidemiologic evidence is hard to ignore.

 

Why might cannabis work so well as an alternative to opioids? It does offer some mild pain relief. But more significant, both opiates and cannabis — like all recreational drugs — cause the release of dopamine in the brain’s reward pathway. That signal conveys a powerful sense of pleasure and craving. Thus, cannabis might pre-empt some of the rewarding effects of opiates, decreasing the general desire to use them.

 

There is also intriguing preliminary evidence that cannabidiol, a major component of marijuana, can blunt craving in individuals with opioid dependence following a period of abstinence.

 

If cannabis were actually a dangerous gateway drug, as the attorney general suggested, it would be very easy to see in the data. We would find that medical-marijuana laws increased opiate drug use and overdose deaths, when in fact just the opposite has happened.

 

Author: Richard A. Friedman is a professor of clinical psychiatry and the director of the psychopharmacology clinic at the Weill Cornell Medical College

 

Further Reading:

“Jeff Sessions' Approach to Solving the Opioid Addiction Crisis” : http://sco.lt/5nhcAb“Is There a Role for Medical Cannabis in Combating the Opioid Epidemic?” : http://bit.ly/MintzPostX“Four Newtown Area Docs Are Approved to Prescribe Medical Marijuana” : http://sco.lt/5QxUEz

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Yardley Councilman Dave Bria Pursues Local Anti-discrimination Ordinance

Yardley Councilman Dave Bria Pursues Local Anti-discrimination Ordinance | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

First-term Yardley Councilman David Bria is introducing an ordinance containing what might become Bucks’ first municipal protections against discrimination since 2013.


Council members will vote on advertising the ordinance at their meeting Tuesday evening and might give their final approval later this month.


Bria’s proposal, modeled after an existing code in Doylestown Borough, would create a three- to five-person Yardley Human Relations Commission. The commission members would receive and handle complaints from borough residents alleging discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations or access to educational institutions.


The ordinance’s scope covers discrimination based on an individual’s race, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, use of support animals or mechanical aids, whether “actual or perceived” — a qualifying phrase Bria said will help the borough protect the “shades of gray” on the spectrum of identity.


“The idea out there is that if the discrimination is related at all to the way someone identifies their sexual identity or gender identity, they would be protected,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how they identify but if it’s related to how ... we want to cast a broad net so there aren’t loopholes with this label or that label.”


Bria, who is gay, said he has personally not heard of any such discrimination taking place in Yardley, a 2,434-resident borough, or its surrounding municipalities. Rather, he said, his ordinance is to lock in a protection not yet afforded to LGBTQ individuals under state or federal law.


Bria said he’s spoken to many people, including borough residents and fellow council members, who were surprised to learn these levels of government do not already protect LGBTQ citizens.


“A lot of people, when they realized there were no protections, they were supportive (at the municipal level),” he said.


The state’s Human Relations Act currently prohibits discrimination in the same areas as Bria’s ordinance, like housing and employment, but does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected categories.


Listen to this podcast: Dave Bria Talks About Anti-discrimination Ordinances; http://www.johnmacknewtown.info/briapodcast1.html

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Arcadia Green Sues Newtown Township

Arcadia Green Sues Newtown Township | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Arcadia Land Co. named township supervisors in two court cases Thursday afternoon, questioning the board’s decision to deny an 85-home development and the fees officials charged the company while reviewing its application.


The Philadelphia-based Arcadia Land Co. filed two court cases against Newtown Township last week, not long after supervisors rejected its proposed Arcadia Green community development.


Both court cases concern the developer’s Arcadia Green project to build 59 townhouses and 26 village houses on 27.56 acres near the intersection of Buck Road and Newtown Bypass.


Arcadia attorney John VanLuvanee wrote that supervisors “abused their discretion” in denying the application based on factors in Garton’s report, which cite testimony by Arcadia officials in arguing that the project is not in the public interest and could create unsafe traffic conditions. These factors, the developer alleges, are “not supported by substantial evidence in the record.”


The Arcadia proposal “does not create a unique or a new housing option in Newtown Township,” wrote Garton, continuing, “The Board of Supervisors further concludes that the amenities proposed to be provided as part of the project serve, almost exclusively, the Applicants, both the Church and the residents of the new housing development.”


Supervisors also found that Arcadia Green homeowners would only be able to access the community through a service road intersecting Buck Road, precluding access to emergency service vehicles if it were blocked, wrote Garton.


Arcadia proposed creating the other [access] point by tearing down a Newtown Crossing home it owns on High Street and building a one-way egress road out of the new development and into Newtown Crossing. That would require adverse changes to Newtown Crossing’s development plans, wrote Garton, who added that about 80 percent of the new traffic would travel through the existing development, per testimony from Arcadia’s engineer.


For more background, read: “Newtown Crossing vs Arcadia: Truth to Power!”; https://preview.mailerlite.com/x3l3q6 ;

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Incorporating social media reviews can improve surveillance of restaurant health problems

A recent paper published in JAMIA, Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, illustrates the success of an improved system that tracks foodborne illness via online Yelp restaurant reviews developed by the Columbia University Department of Computer Science. Since 2012 this system has been used by the New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to identify instances of foodborne illness in NYC restaurants.


The system identifies Yelp reviews that indicate a foodborne illness and reviews that suggest multiple people experienced foodborne illness. To achieve this, the system identifies key words within reviews such as use of the words "sick" and "multiple." Since this system was introduced in the DOHMH, epidemiologists have identified 8,523 reviews consistent with food poisoning, which helped to identify 10 outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with NYC restaurants. The work illustrated in this paper describes the evaluation of methods to increase the sensitivity and specificity to improve system performance.


Foodborne illness is major health problem in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 48 million illnesses and over 3,000 deaths caused by contaminated food in the United States each year. When these instances are related to restaurants, they have traditionally been identified via health department complaint registration systems. However, social media now provides a public platform to disclose incidents that may not have been reported through established complaint systems.


Younger people are less likely to report foodborne illness via traditional channels. The popularity of online reviews and the incorporation of social media data into public health surveillance systems are, however, becoming more common. Data from internet search engines and social media has been used to monitor outbreaks of various infectious diseases, such as influenza, and an evaluation comparing the use of social media and internet data against traditional methods of detecting outbreaks of infectious diseases found that these new methods were the first to report outbreaks in 70% of cases.


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Council Rock North Students Rock the SAT & Score the Highest in Bucks County!

Council Rock North Students Rock the SAT & Score the Highest in Bucks County! | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The Pennsylvania Department of Education recently released average SAT scores for each public high school in the state. A perfect score on the test, which is administered by the College Board, is 1600. The reading and writing portion has 800 possible points, and the math portion also has 800 possible points.


The highest scoring school in Bucks County was Council Rock North, where students averaged a score of 1217, followed by New Hope-Solebury High School, where the average score was 1213. 


Click here: http://bit.ly/2s1NabQ to see SAT scores for all Pennsylvania public high schools.

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Now really be smart and retire the mascot!
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Alcohol Related Crimes Increased Dramatically In Newtown in 2017 vs 2016

Alcohol Related Crimes Increased Dramatically In Newtown in 2017 vs 2016 | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

It should be noted that the Newtown Police Department serves both Newtown Township and Wrightstown (according to the 2018 budget, the township expects to receive nearly $700,000 from Wrightstown for providing police services). 


Newtown Police Chief Henry Pasqualini reports COMBINED call data for both townships to the Newtown Board of Supervisors every month. His report on January 10, 2018, included data for 2017 and 2016. The following chart was prepared using that data, which includes calls for BOTH Newtown Township AND Wrightstown.


Upon the request of Newtown Supervisor John Mack, in the future Chief Pasqualini will include separate stats for Wrightstown in his reports to the Board of Supervisors. It will then be possible to calculate crime statistics specific for Newtown Township.

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Pa. Officials Report Progress Under State Opioid Disaster Declaration

Pa. Officials Report Progress Under State Opioid Disaster Declaration | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Pennsylvania officials say they are making progress on initiatives in Gov. Tom Wolf’s 90-day statewide disaster emergency declaration (see here: http://bit.ly/JMopioidnews) in response to the heroin and opioid epidemic. 


Some of the initial initiatives include developing guidance for emergency medical services crews on how to determine if overdoses are related to opioids or other substances and guidance for health care providers on how to diagnose neonatal abstinence syndrome, as well as data collection tools and reporting methods for each.


As part of the declaration, the health department also has released data on overdose cases seen by hospital emergency departments, and prescription opioids dispensed between the third quarter of 2016 and the third quarter of 2017.


Dr. Rachel Levine, acting secretary of the health department, said the agencies are developing data collection tools to learn more about instances when EMS crews leave behind naloxone at non-fatal overdose scenes when people do not want to go to the hospital.


The EMS leave-behind initiative itself has required actions including changes made by the health department to laws governing dispensing medication, and grants for free naloxone provided by Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.


“The mechanism of the command center allowed us to accomplish that much more efficiently,” Levine explained.


Other initiatives in the works or on the agencies’ list include rescheduling synthetic fentanyl derivatives as schedule I substances having no accepted medical use, changing the criteria used to determine the best levels of treatment for people with substance use disorders, and broadening the responsibilities of the state’s 45 opioid Centers of Excellence, possibly to include warm hand-offs to help get people who survive opioid overdoses from hospital emergency departments to treatment.


The collaboration between the agencies also has allowed them to gather more data on the initiatives and trends related to the opioid epidemic, which Levine said they will continue to share as time goes on.

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Volunteer to Serve on the Newtown Finance Committee

Volunteer to Serve on the Newtown Finance Committee | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

It is the mission of the Finance Committee, in cooperation with the Board of Supervisors and the Township Manager, to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors related to matters associated with finance, budgeting, debt service, investments and long-range planning. The Committee may perform such other functions as requested by the Board of Supervisors from time to time. The Finance Committee shall meet as need be, but at least quarterly, at a time and date to be published in the public meeting notices of Township meetings. 


If you are interested in serving on this committee, please send a Letter of Interest and/or resume to Olivia Kivenko, Administrative Assistant to the Township Manager, Newtown Township Administrative Offices, 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, PA 18940, Fax: (215) 968-5368 or email oliviak@newtownpa.gov 


Find more details about the mission, residency requirements, term, and the powers and duties of this committee here: https://ecode360.com/30825020#30825020

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