Education is the key to dealing with the opioid crisis.

Mike O’Pake, Democratic candidate for Schuylkill County district attorney, on Wednesday shared his view on how to attack the problem as he addressed the Tamaqua Rotary/Chamber of Commerce at Trinity United Church of Christ in Tamaqua.

O’Pake discussed issues relating to the national opioid crisis, which he said has been classified as the worst-ever drug crisis in the country.

“It’s a real problem,” O’Pake said. “It’s in our communities, and it’s not going away.”

O’Pake said the priority is to make communities safer and lessen its impact.

“The first key to lessening its impact is education,” he said. “You have to start at the elementary level.”

O’Pake said that while children need to be educated on the matter, so too, do doctors, teachers, and the court system.

“This isn’t a math problem,” he said. “You can’t treat each case the same; each case has to be treated individually.”

O’Pake said he recently sat in on drug court, and added, “I know the drug court is working.”

“Users and abusers have to help themselves, and that’s where it has to start,” he said. “But, they have to be educated.”

O’Pake praised those on hand for their efforts to derail the opioid crisis.

“Education is so important, and what you guys do here is so important about getting the word out,” he said. “You can only do so much because the individual has to take the responsibility themselves.”

O’Pake said that in order to combat the drug problem and lessen its impact, police officers from the municipalities need to work together.

A brief question-and-answer session followed.

O’Pake, a 1981 graduate of Marian High School, graduated from Dickinson College in 1985 and Dickinson School of Law in 1988.

He served as a part-time assistant attorney under Schuylkill County DA Claude A. Lord Shields beginning in 1992. He left the DA’s office in 2013 and became a public defender in 2014.

The Rotary and Chamber previously hosted a presentation by current Schuylkill DA Republican Christine Holman.