Mayor initially kept task force out of loop on heroin summit

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana proposed a heroin summit during his town hall meeting Monday, one in which he invited Vice President Joe Biden and other influential world and state leaders, but he never alerted the Lycoming County Heroin Task Force.

“No,” said Lycoming County President Judge Nancy L. Butts, chairwoman of the Lycoming County Heroin Task Force, when asked if Campana had kept her in the loop about his proposed summit, in which he invited influential leaders in government and private business representatives to discuss the raging heroin epidemic in the city.

“Our organization is grass-roots,” Butts said Wednesday after receiving notice of the summit and an invitation. “We are seeing what can we as a community do together.”

Among the people on the RSVP list are: Gov. Tom Corbett, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and members of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce.

The press and public aren’t part of the session, according to the mayor, but there’ll be a press “briefing” afterward.

“We’ve got to move ahead,” said the Rev. Andrew France, chaplain at the Lycoming County Prison and chairman of the task force’s faith-based committee.

“Everyone doing their own thing, lack of working together, and more,” he said, chiding the administration for not informing the task force about the summit.

France, who has served the community’s ministerial needs for 30 years, said his committee offers spiritual guidance as a means to combating addiction and the heroin problem. He said it appears there’s been grandstanding rather than coordinating happening.

The faith-based committee holds its next meeting at 2 p.m. May 21 at the New Covenant United Church of Christ, 202 E. Third St.

For several weeks now, Campana has been invited to attend heroin task force meetings. The mayor recently said he went to meetings and the city is supportive of such efforts.

Butts and Dr. Rene Rigal, a pain specialist and director of the city Board of Health, recently pointed out to City Council how deadly the problem of doctors prescribing prescription narcotics is in the fight against heroin use and overdose.

Councilman Randall J. Allison, a member of the city public safety committee, said Wednesday he and others on the committee want to review the effectiveness of the surveillance cameras that are meant to be used as a tool by police to gather evidence in potential criminal prosecutions.

Assistant Police Chief Timothy Miller said politics and infighting must end as he described the harrowing task police and the public face in light of the urgency to stop the flow of narcotics in the city.