Pubdate: Sat, 08 Feb 2014
Source: News-Item, The (PA)
Copyright: 2014 The News Item
Author: Andy Heintzelman


Heroin, too often in the headlines of this publication, continued to
make news across Pennsylvania and the nation this week.

The death of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman at the hands
of this drug on Sunday at his Greenwich Village apartment brought a
new perspective to those who don't see heroin addicts as rich or famous.

The private funeral for Hoffman in Manhattan on Friday attracted a
star-studded audience that included Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett,
Ethan Hawke, Spike Lee, Marisa Tomei, Diane Sawyer and others.

The funerals for those who died from heroin overdoses in western
Pennsylvania in late January were without such fanfare. But rest
assured those services were attended by mourning family and friends,
too, and that they were asking the same key question:


The heroin "crisis" in Pennsylvania is blamed for at least 23 deaths
in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler and Westmoreland counties. The deaths
began Jan. 16 and came at a rate of nearly one a day until Jan. 23,
when there were four fatal overdoses, according to reporting by
Jonathan D. Silver of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. One occurred the
next day, followed by three on Jan. 25 and one each on Jan. 27 and

Victims ranged in age from 25 to 50, Silver reported.

Pennsylvania, it appears, may be the latest state to grapple with the
mortal scourge of heroin combined with the painkiller fentanyl. Over
the past year Maryland, New York and Ohio have all experienced
outbreaks of overdoses from the often-fatal mixture, according to
Silver's story. Maryland's office of the chief medical examiner issued
a statement Jan. 31 warning of the illicit drug combination and
blaming it for at least 37 deaths statewide since September.

The specific heroin overdoses in western Pennsylvania and the overall
issue of drug abuse has drawn the attention of politicians at both the
federal and state level.

Last Friday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., released a letter he had sent
to the head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration asking for
increased assistance. "With reports that the fentanyl mixed heroin
likely came from outside of Pennsylvania, the federal nexus to this
issue is clear," he wrote. "I respectfully request that the DEA
provide significant support to state and local law enforcement in
identifying and eliminating the source of the heroin, and bringing
charges against the producers and sellers responsible for twenty-two
senseless deaths."

This week, as reported in Wednesday's News-Item, state Rep. Kurt
Masser (R-107) noted his desire to see more funding for drug addition
treatment in Gov. Corbett's proposed 2014-15 state budget. Masser
again willingly discussed the difficult circumstances of losing a
niece to a heroin overdose in November as he attempts to use his role
as a lawmaker to help protect other families from the same misery.

In the meantime, we hope to see "heroin" removed from our headlines,
but that won't happen until it's gone from our communities, too. 
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