Drive-thru food bank in Milford addresses opiate use as well

A volunteer loads food in a van during a food drive at Lulu Ross Elementary School on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Dozens of cars lined up outside Milford’s Lulu M. Ross Elementary School on Friday morning for an ad hoc drive-thru food bank and to receive Narcan, a life-saving drug reversing opiate overdoses.

“There’s probably a lot of people around here who could use help,” said Dawn Dominick, a Milford resident. “I’ve known quite a few people around here who’ve struggled over the years.”

Over the last two to three months, Delaware’s food banks have done most of their distribution through drive-thrus said Gary Mason, a community outreach coordinator at the Delaware Department of Health and Social Service’s Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH).

A volunteer uses a hand jack to set up a pallet of food during a food drive at Lulu Ross Elementary School on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“We want to keep our social distancing happening,” Mr. Mason said. “If they don’t have to interact as much, that’s great for us and it’s safer for individual constituents in the community.”

This event, put on by the Food Bank of Delaware in conjunction with DSAMH, aimed to serve at least 180 families, Mr. Mason said.

“There’s definitely some food insecurities” in Milford, he said, “with it just being a little more rural than other places and having less access to” resources available upstate.

Still, Mr. Mason said attendance has been spotty at past food donation events he’s helped with in Milford.

“I’m not sure here if people don’t have access to vehicles. Maybe people don’t drive… [or] have family that drives,” he said. “We just want to continue to infiltrate this area to ensure that they’re able to get food as well.”

Milford Mayor Archie Campbell said he was happy to help coordinate the event when DSAMH’s Director Elizabeth Romero reached out to him.

“I think the food’s going to help those needy families and I think the education is going to help the community also,” he said.

“I don’t want to say there’s a big problem,” with opiates in Milford, Mayor Campbell said, “but there’s a problem everywhere. I’m going to say Milford just joins the rest.”

But Dawn Dominick said there are “little parts of town… where people will say, ‘oh, don’t go in that area,’ because it’s a big high-traffic area for” drugs.

DSAMH identified it as an area that would benefit from the availability of Narcan.

“Right now, we’re targeting 15 ZIP codes throughout the whole state of Delaware that are high for opioid overdose deaths,” Mr. Mason said. “Milford is one place we picked.”

Ms. Romero said opiate overdose rates are on the rise state-wide.

“As people are dealing with social isolation and being alone,” or are “worried about their job and having their kids at home, that adds extra stress and anxiety,” she said. “What we do know is for people who are experiencing greater stress, such as food insecurity, the potential risk [for drug use] is higher.”

Ms. Romero said “Narcan is something that cuts across any economic and racial boundary, because unfortunately, addiction affects us all.”

Mayor Campbell was appreciative of DSAMH’s efforts to battle addiction in Milford.

“I think it’s great, it’s good for the city,” he said. “People have to be aware of what goes on with this. It’s not just the pandemic, it’s another disease also.”

If you or someone you care about are feeling depressed or anxious, please call DSAMH’s “hope line” at 1-833-9-HOPEDE (833-946-7333).