Governor Wolf Declares Heroin and Opioid Epidemic a Statewide Disaster Emergency

On Wednesday, Jan. 10, Governor Tom Wolf  signed a statewide disaster declaration related to the heroin and opioid epidemic to enhance state response, increase access to treatment, and save lives. The declaration will utilize a command center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to track progress and enhance coordination of health and public safety agencies.

Among the declaration’s specifics are 13 key initiatives that are the culmination of a collaboration between all state agencies, with focus on the departments of Health, Drug and Alcohol Programs, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and the Pennsylvania State Police. Details are available here.

In October, President Trump directed the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

Substance abuse is a significant issue for local employers in hiring and retaining employees. To help deal with the crisis locally, the Chamber is a part of the Columbia-Montour Opioid Coalition, organized by the United Way of Columbia and Montour County. The Coalition meets monthly to share information and find solutions in the areas of prevention, treatment, and enforcement.  

3D Printer Now Available at McBride Memorial Library Aims to Help Promote STEM

Thanks to a grant, there is now a 3D printer available at McBride Memorial Library. The library began using the 3D printer last month with a few special events centered around holiday ornament printing.

For now, the 3D printer is only available for public use as a part of similar special events. However, the plan is to eventually make it available to the general public for any use. A nominal fee would be charged based on the weight of the item being printed to cover the cost of the printing material. 

According to library director Nadine Kramarz, the device was purchased to help promote STEM in the Berwick area and beyond.

“Berwick has always been a town of builders and there is a high demand for people in the STEM fields today,” said Kramarz. “I thought this would help promote STEM in Berwick and long term, there are also possibilities of using it to help others. For instance, there are public libraries around the country that also have 3D printers and contract with developing countries around the world to 3D print various items that are needed in those countries.”

3D printers can print small things, such as the holiday ornaments that were printed at the library’s various events last month, as well as larger things like replacement parts for various devices and even prosthetic limbs. They are also very precise down to such small details like a the threads of a screw. 

In order to 3D print something, whatever is being printed first needs to be designed. There are several software programs available to do so. Thingiverse.com and tinkercad.com are both free programs. The design is then saved as a file on an external drive and is plugged into the 3D printer. 

For more information on the 3D printer and on McBride Library and its various programs, visit its website

Member Spotlight: AGAPE – Love From Above To Our Community

“Being a member of the Chamber has enhanced our relationships with businesses and corporations, extended our outreach for making the business community and others aware of what we do and increased our ability to get the word out about our events. It has also enhanced our community donations beyond churches and individuals.” – Kelly Dent, Extended Services Manager, AGAPE

AGAPE Love From Above to Our Community is a faith-based, non-denominational Christian ministry founded in November 2008 by a group of about 60 people from the local community who met at Wesley United Methodist Church wanting to hear about the three-year-old dream of Billy and Eileen Chapman. Liking the opportunity to implement the words of Matthew 25 and serve their Lord and community, a committee was formed to make it happen. They identified the principle mission: “help fill in the gaps so no one falls through the cracks.” They developed a vision, established values and guidelines and wrote the by-laws for the ministry. The committee reported to the group and the group appointed a 13-member Board of Directors. AGAPE was registered as a charitable organization and approved as a 501(c)(3) in 2009.

As a non-profit charitable ministry, AGAPE accepts financial and in-kind donations, the latter being its largest program. It receives food (perishable and non-perishable), furniture (not badly stained, torn or broken), adult clothes, large and small appliances that work (refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers, coffee makers, toasters, microwaves, etc.), bedding, mattresses, box springs, bed frames, dishes, utensils and cookware — basically, any items needed to reasonably furnish an apartment or small house.

AGAPE’s “business” is one of only a few in the community that wants to go out of business — meaning those who were once its clients are self-sufficient and can provide for themselves. AGAPE distributes all donated items, if available, free of change, and requires responsibility and accountability from its clients. Sometimes assistance is denied because extremely bad choices have been made, advice is not followed to help themselves, lying, or abuse of the system or conduct is such that assistance it demanded as an entitlement.  AGAPE tries very hard not to be an enabler.

AGAPE received the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank Partner of the Year Award in 2016 for its “fighting hunger” program, and also received accolades for its service to Columbia County during Tropical Storm Lee and the flood of 2011, when it served as a flood recovery center. AGAPE is extremely grateful to the Chamber and the entire community for their continuing support, and could always use volunteers to help it fulfill its mission. For more information on volunteer opportunities, visit AGAPE’s website or call 570-317-2210. 

Member spotlights are chosen via a random drawing from members that submit their business cards at a Business After Hours event. The next Business After Hours is scheduled for Jan. 17 at the Bloomsburg Area YMCA, 30 East 7th St., Bloomsburg. There is also a second Business After Hours scheduled in January at the Danville Child Development Center, 986 Wall St., Danville, on Jan. 31. 

Leadership Central Penn Learns About the Cost of Justice and Being Unprepared

January took Leadership Central Penn participants to court for some education on our proactive judicial system in Columbia and Montour Counties. The morning kicked off with some morning motivation provided by Tina Welch with Welch Performance Consulting. The highlight was a class participant sharing her story of adoption of her children presided over by the day’s first presenter, the Honorable Thomas James, President Judge of the Columbia County Court of Common Pleas. 

Judge James gave a presentation titled “The Cost of Justice” and walked the group through not only the financial costs, but the societal and cultural costs many of us don’t think about related to our judicial system. He spoke about some of the many innovative judicial programs like drug and DUI treatment court, veterans court, electronic monitoring home detention program and juvenile court wood-cutting program for restitution. Programs like the electronic monitoring program have saved the county $1.68 million in six years as opposed to incarceration. Courts are constantly being tasked with controlling costs, while legislatures continues to pass more laws to be enforced, with no additional funding to do so.

Once the class learned of all the costs of simple infractions like speeding tickets and the like, it realized the courts bills look a lot like those cell phone bills that everyone knows. A quote summed up how the group felt. “If you love the law and if you love scrapple, you shouldn’t watch either being made.”

The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent with the Honorable Gary Norton, Judge of the Columbia County Court of Common Pleas, and Columbia County Assistant District Attorney Dan Lynn. They walked through a recent murder case from Columbia County that has been completely closed with all appeals exhausted, sparing the group some of the more gruesome details. The class learned about crime scenes, evidence processing, motions, discovery, the various pretrial hearings, and got to see into the minds of a jury. This was not 12 angry men and women, although there may have been a few in the class after what was learned about the case. One thing that was most surprising was a motion by the defense that was denied, but which eventually led to the basis of the motion being used for a full defense. Had the motion been upheld, everyone wondered what sort of defense would have been offered. 

It was realized that cases don’t wrap up in a nice bow and are not as straight forward as television programs would have us believe. In some courts, you cannot even refer to the person who was murdered as the “victim.” The court’s job is to provide a fair and impartial hearing and that all are innocent until proven guilty. Some felt this marginalized the victim, but it was to ensure an impartial trial for the person. No one wants to put an innocent person in prison, and our system does its best to preserve the freedoms we all love in the U.S.

After the case discussion, the class was introduced to Fred Hunsinger, Columbia County public safety director, and he spoke about all the work being done to be prepared for a worst-case scenario in our area.  Whether it is a flood, ice dam on the river, a runaway government blimp with a razor sharp steel wire dragging behind, or a nuclear accident, there are people at the ready to leap into action at the Columbia County Emergency Management Service (EMS) center. These are normal everyday people, that when called upon, will coordinate military, private and civilian resources to tackle any disaster. It is up to us to be prepared. The Ready PA app, and website are two resources that families may find helpful to be prepared for emergencies.

The day was finished with a tour of the Columbia County EMS and newly-consolidated Columbia/Montour 911 center. Here the group saw that when 911 is called from a cell phone, technology helps pinpoint the call’s location. While it won’t get first responders to you directly, it helps narrow the field. The 911 operators really are superheroes in headsets. This was one where television just might have it right. They deliver babies in cars along I-80, help people keep loved ones alive with basic life support and CPR, and help police track and catch reckless drivers – all over the phone. They even get calls about people’s microwaves not working or with questions about parades and toy donations.  They do it all with professionalism, recognition attributed to first responders and grace.

Leadership Central Penn is sponsored by Bloomsburg UniversityKawneerSEKISUI SPI and USG.

PPL’s Operation HELP Program Assists Families in Need

From Tracie Witter, PPL Electric Utilities Regional Affairs Director

Well here we are in January and February – the coldest time of the year! They’re months of short days, long nights, snow, wind and ice. While these months do have their charm, we all know they can be tough to get through sometimes.

For people who are struggling with personal challenges, like illness or the loss of a job, life can seem even bleaker at this time of year. Bills loom larger, and things we once took for granted suddenly become constant sources of concern.

Fortunately, help is at hand, even in the darkest hours.

Since starting at PPL this fall, I have learned about a program called Operation HELP. It’s an energy assistance fund founded by PPL Electric Utilities in 1983. Since then, it has helped 94,000 families – including some in our area – by making their financial challenges a little lighter.

It works like this: Income-eligible customers can apply for grants that help pay any type of energy bill. The grants go directly to the customer’s utility. Community agencies across PPL Electric Utilities’ 29-county service area administer the program.

Help is available year-round as funding permits – though, since winter is a peak time of year for energy use, demand is likely to be especially high around this time.

Operation HELP is funded by the company, our employees, retirees, and generous customers. We’ve done everything from holding golf tournaments to selling cookbooks to build support for the program over the years, and we thank those who have donated in the past.

In February, PPL Electric Utilities will hold its annual Operation HELP fundraising drive. You’ll receive information with your monthly statement. I hope you’ll consider giving, if you’re able to. You can also donate online

If you believe Operation HELP can help you with your energy bills, you have a few choices. You can visit online to learn more about the program and find the name of an agency that administers the program in your area (The agency may be able to refer you to other programs that can help, as well).

Or, you can call PPL at 1-800-DIAL-PPL (342-5775), and we’ll help guide you. If other PPL customer assistance programs can help, we’ll tell you about those as well.

We appreciate any support you can give. It will make a difference in helping someone else get through these long, cold months, or another period of personal need.

Just how much difference can it make? Here are some comments from customers in our area who have benefited from the program.

“I wanted to thank you for helping me to get my power restored in my home.  Because of your act of kindness, I am able to celebrate my daughter’s birthday tomorrow and my son’s birthday.  I am also now able to provide my children with Christmas this year. ‘Thank you’ isn’t enough to say but I’m very appreciative of the help you provided for my children and myself.”

“I know we will get out of this situation we are in now with my losing my job.  However, your help has been such a positive boost for our family in this difficult time we are having.  Thank you so very much.”