Mar. 23, 2021

HARRISBURG— Fred Harran, director of Public Safety of the Bensalem Township Police Department, today testified before the House Human Services Committee that every member of the Bensalem Police Department, including civilians and officers, are trained to identify and help those suffering with addictions.

“All of my command staff, my middle management, all my officers, my dispatchers and my community services officers were trained in addiction and what it’s like to be addicted,” Harran said. “They were taught that addiction is not a bad person trying to become good, it’s an ill person trying to become well. That’s a huge change for law enforcement.”

Harran testified that communities cannot arrest their way out of the addiction problem. “This was not in lieu of arrest,” Harran said. “But if you want help, our officers were trained to offer that help. This is a philosophy. It’s a way of policing.”

“That’s the message I’m trying to get out through these hearings,” said Rep. Frank Farry (R-Langhorne), chairman of the House Human Services Committee. “As demonstrated by what Director Harran is doing in Bensalem, the largest police force in Bucks County, these warm hand-off programs mark a sea-of-change for law enforcement that is saving lives.”

Harran joined other law enforcement and health care professionals from throughout the Commonwealth in testifying before the committee on their work guiding those with opioid addictions into recovery programs. The committee hosted five panels of experts to discuss their findings on warm hand-off treatments and how to move forward to achieve higher success rates among patients in recovery.

Four Bucks County members serve on the Human Services Committee, including Majority Chairman Farry, and Reps. Todd Polinchock (R-Chalfont), KC Tomlinson (R-Bensalem) and Shelby Labs (R-Doylestown).

House Resolution 216 of 2019, introduced by Polinchock, directed the Joint State Government Committee to establish a task force and advisory committee to conduct a study in Pennsylvania on warm hand-off techniques, specifically to tailor the steps in recovery for those with a substance use disorder to successfully recover.

“The rate of overdose repetition and how few receive follow-up services after their initial treatment is an alarming sign that shows the need for warm hand-off programs,” Labs said. “We must keep finding effective ways to get those with addictions long-term treatment and to break the cycle of opioid abuse.”

The Joint State Government Commission on warm hand-offs consisted of over 20 professionals including those from the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Department of Health, Department of Human Services, and the Department of Corrections. The committee also included the adjutant general, emergency medicine physicians, county drug and alcohol administrators, researchers, certified specialists, a district attorney, law enforcement officials, a child advocate, and representatives of health insurance companies and recovery organizations.

“This is about finding effective ways to get those with addictions long-term treatment to break the cycle of opioid abuse,” Farry said. “Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the findings and has dedicated their time and expertise to this life-saving cause.”

“I especially want to thank Director Fred Haran for his leadership on our warm hand-off program in Bensalem,” Tomlinson said. “I think he and the Bensalem Police Department should be commended in their efforts to not only help those in need but to also employ those in the field of social work to work alongside our police offices to make sure the residents of Bensalem have the best chance at getting the help they need.”

“Thanks to private public partnerships like the Kaitlyn Murphy Foundation, who participated on the task force, we are able to accomplish more by working with our law-enforcement agencies,” Polinchock said. “Ultimately, this task force has moved the needle in the right direction on warm hand-offs and continues to provide hope, which is what is needed most by people suffering from substance use addiction. I am in awe of the time and expertise put in by such knowledgeable people from all aspects of dealing with this crisis.”

“My goal is to use the information provided by Fred and the other testifiers to help us to encourage programs like the one in Bensalem throughout the state,” Farry said.

Here is the link to today’s hearing.

Bucks County Legislative Delegation
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: David Foster