Project Bald Eagle goes regional to multiply its impact

The opioid epidemic that has cost local families so many lives and futures was never just a Williamsport problem.

It was never just a Lycoming County problem.

It is a national problem.

So the announcement that Project Bald Eagle – the local non-profit organization that has evolved from a county heroin task force – is becoming a regional organization marks a natural progression in response to the crisis.

In our view, it’s a necessary progression if the organization is to beat the odds and have a substantial impact in fighting the problem.

Project Bald Eagle leaders say that the expansion will not only increase impact but also efficiency by expanding the collaborative effort and the expertise being used to attack the problem. That expansion of expertise – which is what has helped make the original organization effective – is probably the greatest plus to the expansion.

The regionalization will expand Project Bald Eagle into Tioga, Bradford, Sullivan, Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Columbia and Montour counties. The board will be reorganized to include representation from each county, with probably about 20 members, and a new regional executive director will be sought. Steve Shope resigned as executive director Dec. 7.

Thirty-eight people died of drug overdoses in Lycoming County in 2017, an increase of three from 2016. But the increase was not on the level of the 40 percent hike in drug overdose deaths in the county between 2015 and 2016.

It is hard to measure the exact impact of an organization seeking to reverse a trend caused by illegal drug usage, particularly one as complex as opioid addiction, which can start with doctor’s prescription for an everyday problem.

But doing nothing about the problem is not an option. There is every indication that Project Bald Eagle has had a major impact in the expertise brought to the crisis, the raising of awareness of the epidemic and the educating of children to it in our schools.

Our hope will be that the impact is multiplied with this regional expansion.