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Oz, Ciarrocchi Hit Chester County Campaign Trail

The Delaware Valley may be trending Democratic, but that did not stop the nation’s top Republican from coming to Chester County to rally the GOP troops.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel revved up a crowd of Republican activists Saturday morning at the Desmond Hotel in Malvern. They gathered to knock on doors for U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz and Guy Ciarrocchi, the GOP challenger to incumbent Rep. Chrissy Houlahan. Her message: Vote Republican in Pennsylvania and fire Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer from their leadership posts in Washington.

NRC Chair Ronna McDaniel talks to Chester County Republicans at the Desmond Hotel on October 15, 2022.

Oz, who appears to be closing the polling gap with his opponent, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, continued his campaign focus on the crime issue.

“I was in Philadelphia at a prayer vigil in Olney for a murder that happened, last year, 561 murders, the worst of any major city. Shocking,” Oz said. While he was there, someone told him it was easier to find fentanyl than baby formula.

“I was stunned,” he said. “She was right. How could the land of opportunity, the land of plenty, leave people with fentanyl and no baby formula?”

He told the group it was important to knock on doors and “get people excited” about what Republican candidates represent.

“You’re talking about changing the lives of lots of people around you,” said Oz. “There are many that love this country passionately, and see it as the land of opportunity, the land of plenty, but it no longer seems to represent that,” Oz said. “My dad was an immigrant who grew up with a dirt floor. He didn’t have a [political] party. When I was 8 years old, I asked him what party are we going to be. And he looked around and he said, ‘You know what? We’re going to be Republicans…Because Republicans have better ideas.’”

“Here’s my commitment to you: We have plans that work for the economy.”

 

A crowd of GOP supporters gathers at the Desmond Hotel in Malvern, PA

 

Ciarrocchi called out President Joe Biden’s energy policy, an important topic in Pennsylvania.

“It’s amazing watching the president as gas prices go up and people are in trouble,” he said. “As he flies around to the other side of the world looking for energy. It’s like a game. It’s right under our feet.”

“So, we have the solution. We will make America energy independent,” he said.

Ciarrocchi also used the opportunity to tout the GOP’s message of hope. “We’re here today because we still believe in the

Dr. Oz shakes hands with congressional candidate Guy CiarrocchiAmerican dream, despite everything the Democratic Party has done, to crush our economy, to push parents out of schools, to make us feel less safe at home and less safe around the world.

“All of us that are running are here today for one reason, we still believe in the American dream,” he said. “We offer hope. We offer solutions. We can fix the mess they created.

“We will unleash our small businesses to revive our economy. We will support our police officers. We will fight crime. We will make sure every person feels safe to go out and live and work. We will restore the rule of law. We know that parents are the bedrock of the family and the bedrock of the community. Under our watch, when Sen. Oz and I go to Washington the Attorney General of the United States will never, ever threaten parents with using the FBI again.”

Former state Rep. Duane Milne came to support Oz and Ciarrocchi. Oz is the “best-qualified candidate,” said Milne. And Ciarrocchi brings “a tremendous world of experience” and “will make an excellent congressman.”

Republican Committeeman Dave Sommers, of West Goshen, said, “People are excited to support conservative candidates.”

Elizabeth Hyde, who traveled from Montgomery County to attend, said Oz is “a successful, smart man who has his heart in the right direction. I think he’s sincere and his values align with mine. We need more doctors in the Senate since the healthcare system and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) are such a big part of the economy.”

The event was followed by a training session for Young Republicans and other volunteers who were going to hand out campaign literature.

Guy Ciarrocchi talks to resident Sandy Lee

Ciarrocchi headed out to Tredyffrin Township to knock on doors and talk to potential voters. Most of the residents he spoke with were friendly, he said.

Like Oz, he talked about the crime issue and its impact on local communities, including a carjacking at a Target in Devon, an armed robbery at Whole Foods in Tredyffrin, and a stabbing at Bertucci’s on Lancaster Avenue in Wayne. He said the CVS drug store in East Goshen was also held up.

“We should not be blasé to carjackings or a robbery or a stabbing,” he told Delaware Valley Journal.

And grab-and-go shoplifters are targeting stores like Lowes, Home Depot, and Walmart, Ciarrocchi said. Clerks are being trained when to try to stop them and when not to.

Crime is “not an academic discussion,” he said. But, he added, “This can be stopped.”

 

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ALEXANDER: PA Leaders Must Come Together to Access Opioid Treatment Funds and Save Lives

President Joe Biden’s host of initiatives to address drug addiction and overdose is at risk of falling on deaf ears if he does not address the rapid rise in fatalities related to opioid abuse.

With the United States focused on battling COVID-19, new information revealed that over one million drug overdose deaths have occurred since the government began collecting this data in the late 1990s. That same data shows trends continuing in the wrong direction, with overdose deaths for the 12-month period ending in April 2021 over 100,000 for the first time ever. Ending this tragic tide will take greater commitment that the United States has yet to put forth.

Unfortunately, government mandates tend to cast wide nets. In this case, it includes consistent talk that prescription opioids should be lumped into the same category as illegal fentanyl. In 2019, prescription opioids were dispensed at the lowest rate in 14 years. Overdose deaths, however, continued to climb.

According to the CDC, “most of the increases in fentanyl deaths from 2013-2016 did not involve prescription fentanyl but were related to illicitly-made fentanyl that is being mixed with or sold as heroin—with or without the users’ knowledge and increasing as counterfeit pills.” Solely blaming prescription opioids for these woes distorts reality.

Eradicating opioid abuse and these fatalities requires greater expansion of quality treatment programs. Leading medical centers like Johns Hopkins have repeatedly told policymakers that treatment relieves withdrawal and addresses cravings. Even with many of the companies that manufacture legal opioids independently funding treatment and education programs, opioid overdoses are still rising as Mexican drug cartels and Chinese drug smugglers flood the United States with illicit fentanyl. Additional interdiction efforts will be needed to end these trafficking networks.

A glimmer of hope emerged in July 2021 with the announcement of a landmark $26 billion settlement that a bipartisan group of state attorneys general negotiated with three opioid distributors and manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. With that deal, states and communities that sign on have the potential to receive billions of dollars to fund recovery, treatment, and prevention programs. As of January 2022, 44 states, D.C. and five territories have fully entered into the agreement providing the “critical mass” needed to move forward with finalizing the settlement.

Although the Keystone State signed onto the deal, it still has some challenges to overcome. In order to access the full allotment of funds available for Pennsylvania, local governments must also agree to participate. Unfortunately, only 75 percent of counties have signed on thus far. A notable holdout is City of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who to date has refused to join the settlement negotiated by Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a fellow Democrat. In doing so the Philadelphia D.A. is jeopardizing the $1 billion in hard-fought funds the citizens of the commonwealth are entitled to.

D.A. Krasner, who has been litigating opioid companies since 2018, believes the $5 million to $8 million per year over 18 years ($90-$144 million in total) Philadelphia is projected to receive is inadequate. A holdout like that might prove unwise, considering how unlikely it would be for Philadelphia to negotiate a more robust deal than what was reached by the combined efforts of the majority of state attorneys general.

Further, opting-out would delay access to funds for treatment programs and might mean Philadelphia will ultimately get nothing, should their independent efforts prove unsuccessful. With the majority of Pennsylvania’s drug overdoses occurring in Philadelphia and with that number rising rapidly, especially among African Americans, the city of brotherly love can ill afford to reject such resources.

The opioid epidemic has cost too many American lives. Instead of spending millions of dollars and countless time on lawsuits, the nation needs to expand successful treatment, prevention, and education programs to reduce deaths and help Americans become productive. Now, more than ever, the nation must provide greater attention to saving lives. Opting into this latest lawsuit settlement would be a prudent start.

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The ‘Last Stop’ Offers Hope for Drug Addicts in Kensington

Driving through the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, you might think it was a war zone. And that would be accurate if it’s the “War on Drugs” that America has been losing since President Richard Nixon coined the term.

Here and there, people stand on sidewalks staring into space or in small groups with their belongings on the sidewalk nearby.

Amid the chaos, rubble and squalor, is one point of light: The Last Stop, an Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous clubhouse on Somerset Street. Founded by Ed “Eddie Z” Zampitella around 30 years ago, the club offers food and solace to many of those addicts who are trying to turn their lives around.

Zampitella, who got hooked on sniffing glue as a child, said running the club helps him stay sober. In addition to food, there are AA and NA meetings.

“Trust God, clean house and help others,” said Zampitella. “They’re the three major rules.”

Zampitella struggles with addiction himself. He was sober for 25 years then had a relapse and is now sober again for four years.

“The main thing is I’ve got four years,” he said.

“A guy grew up in the neighborhood, his name is Nate, and he always hated The Last Stop,” said Zampitella. “And one day, for some reason he was thirsty. And he came in for a glass of water and he stayed ever since. He’s sober now. He grew up watching us as a kid and he always avoided us. He came in and he stayed. It changed his life, a glass of water. Kindness.”

Nowadays, the drug of choice for many is fentanyl. It’s been flooding in, through the mail from China and through the wide-open southern border. There were more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths nationally from April 2020 to April 2021, The Wall Street Journal reports. In 2020, 1,214 people died of overdoses in Philadelphia, according to a city health department report, an increase of 6 percent from the previous year. Fentanyl was involved in 81 percent of those deaths. In the first quarter of 2021, 306 people died of drug overdoses in Philadelphia compared to 265 the same period of 2020.

Oddly, the city recently announced a pilot program for Narcan vending machines in the south and southwestern sections of the city, not Kensington.

“Fentanyl, crack, alcohol, people are broken,” said Zampitella. “They want to escape from whatever happened in the past. Just on this block we had seven people die (in about four years). Just on this block alone. But don’t forget a lot of people stayed sober. We’re here for that one person who comes in the door.”

A wall in The Last Stop bears the names of patrons who died. An opposite wall has the names of those who are sober and alive. Although, Zampitella grew up in Kensington, many people who come there to buy drugs are from the suburbs. And people come from up and down the East Coast, having heard that they’ll have easy access to drugs.

One case that broke Zampitella’s heart was a young Bucks County mother, who had been told by a doctor to stop using methamphetamine because of her heart condition.

“She looked horrible. I wanted to see if she wanted help. She said she had a boyfriend. I said, ‘You have a boyfriend and he’s letting you look like this?’ And she didn’t get help. She didn’t want to leave. And two weeks later, she OD’d.”

“Because I’m from the neighborhood I know those who don’t belong,” he said when asked how he knew people from the suburbs are there. He will talk to people and ask them where they’re from and what they do for a living to try to get them to open up and maybe get sober.

“For some reason, Kensington, because it’s on Facebook, they come here and they get caught up in the mess. The drug scene. They’re homeless because they’re using drugs. They’d sleep in a tent,” he said.

“Before they even come down a lot of them are broken, maybe molested,” he said. There can be family issues or “they were teased as kids. There are other problems before they come down here.”

Zampitella, 65, spoke to the Delaware Valley Journal in the club, where free peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are handed out for lunch. Spaghetti or hot dogs and beans might be on the menu for dinner. A Saturday dessert favorite is banana splits. The food, along with water, is free. Coffee is 75 cents and soda is $1.

Zampitella never learned to read as a kid and relies on Christi McGough, who helps him manage the club. And he has opened two other AA/NA clubs, one in Camden and recently another in Chicago.

Asked about funding, Zampitella said while they are not a nonprofit for tax purposes people donate, sometimes in the name of a relative who has gotten help.

Zampitella is divorced with two grown children. He said his “selfishness” caused the breakup.  Zampitella is now very religious. A Catholic, he said he models his life on Dorothy Day, an activist and a founder of the Catholic Workers Movement. Pope Francis called Day one of four “exemplary Americans.”

“Eddie Z cares more about the health and survival of the struggling unfortunates on Kensington Avenue than he does about himself,” said Main Line TV filmmaker John Riccuitti, who, with Jill Frechie, spent more than a year in the blighted neighborhood making the documentary film “Kensington in Crisis.”   “He has unselfishly helped hundreds conquer the terrible disease of addiction.”

When he’s helping addicts reach sobriety, Zampitella takes them to Graffiti Pier, an area of railroad trestles next to the Delaware River, and sits with them while they detox. That process can last varying amounts time but he and others at The Last Stop are patient, he said.

“You go down and they’ve never seen anything like that, the quietness, the fresh air, the water, there’s no noise,” he said. “They see the graffiti. There’s nowhere to cop drugs at. Something happens. People, I get Muslims, Jews, I say, ‘Look, your God was dope. You believed in that and it didn’t work for you. Just give it a shot.’” But, he said, he is not trying to change anyone’s religion.

“The best thing for us is to live by example,” he said. “The kindness. The graffiti Pier, I’m not saying it has magic. It’s us.”

For Thanksgiving, The Last Stop is having a free turkey dinner around 9 p.m. after the 8 p.m. meeting. Call Christi for information at (732) 547-3582 for information or to make a donation.

 

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