Kutztown Task Force tackles drug addiction in face of overdose deaths

The Kutztown Community Substance Abuse Task Force meeting April 21 was summarized best in a poem read by Kutztown Mayor Sandy Green.

“’I destroy homes and tear families apart,’” read Green. “’If you need me, remember, I’m easily found. I live all around, in your schools and in your town.’”

Green was referring to drug addiction, a recent growing problem in the Brandywine Heights and Kutztown area school districts. Over the past 12 months, both districts have lost a combined total of six recent graduates to drug overdoses. Kutztown Superintendent Kathy Metrick attributed the meeting’s large turn-out to the impact of these recent deaths.

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“The last time we had a program about drug abuse, there were five people in the audience, so we have a very unique opportunity right now,” said Metrick. “Sadly, it is available to us right now because of the recent tragedies that have occurred. So shame on us if we don’t take advantage of this sad opportunity.”

Attendees were led in brief presentations from Metrick and Green, as well as Senator Judy Schwank and Cory Trevena of the Caron Foundation, a drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation center in Wernersville, with locations in New York, Wyomissing, Plymouth Meeting, Florida and Bermuda.

Together, they provided different perspectives on the effects, dangers and warning signs of drug addiction.

“I’m encouraged by all the faces I see in the crowd tonight,” said Schwank. “We need to understand that [drug addiction] is not just somebody else’s problem, it is everybody’s problem. When it impacts one family, it truly impacts all of us.”

“My hope is that [the audience’s] enthusiasm for getting together and making a difference will continue beyond tonight and amount to a change in this community” said Trevena. “I really urge everyone to get the conversation [about drug addiction] going and to continue to be part of this solution.”

The meeting eventually broke into small classroom discussions comprised of those in attendance, as well as speakers and local law enforcement officials. These groups were prompted to discuss local drug addiction problems in a more intimate setting. The meeting then re-convened for closing statements.

“We know there is a problem, but that level of concern has not necessarily reached everyone and it has not reached all of our students,” said Metrick. “[Drug addiction] is out there and it is affecting all of us. We need to act together as a community now. We are tired of losing our kids.”