Monday, March 7, 2016

Montco Battles Heroin on Numerous Fronts

“Heroin is cheap, it’s deadly and it’s impacting the lives of too many families in Montgomery County and across the United States,” District Attorney Kevin R. Steele said recently as he announced the arrest of an East Norriton man who relied on retrofitted car batteries to smuggle heroin from Atlanta to New York City, via Montgomery County.
Seized Heroin and Tools of the Trade/ Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

Steele also took the opportunity to provide the following statistics regarding the heroin problem in Montgomery County:

-Heroin deaths in the county increased 39 percent in 2014 with 64 reported heroin deaths. Of those, 28 were under 30 years old, 36 were over 30 years old; 18 were female and 46 were male; the youngest to die of a heroin overdose was 19 and the oldest was 70.

-About 54 percent, an all-time high, of all residential drug treatment admissions were for heroin.

-Heroin is cheap, about $10 a bag, according to county detectives who make undercover drug buys.

-One kilo of pure heroin yields about 33,000 doses/bags of pure heroin, but street dealers add cutting agents to increase profits.

Steele also took the opportunity to discuss how the district attorney’s office is working in a variety of ways to combat the heroin problem in the county, saying it employs “a multi-faceted approach” to combating heroin that extends beyond the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenders. Steele said his office is working on several fronts to reduce the drug footprint in Montgomery County.

The office used drug forfeiture funds to buy Naloxone rescue kits, used to reverse the effects of a potentially deadly heroin or opioid overdose, for every police car and EMS vehicle in the county. County police departments have reported saving 16 lives since April 2015, according to Steele.

Montgomery County D.A. Kevin Steele/Courtesy of Steele
Additionally, the office supported the standing order signed by county commissioners that authorized pharmacies to dispense Naloxone doses, which can be administered via nasal spray or auto-injector, to the public.

Steele said there is a direct correlation between prescription pain medication and the surging heroin epidemic, with nearly 80 percent of heroin users reporting that they first became addicted to prescription pain medication. The district attorney’s office has a prescription drug disposal program, administered in concert with county police departments, which collects unwanted, unused and expired medications at 31 permanent locations in the county at no cost to residents. More than 15,000 pounds of prescription medications have been safely collected and disposed of since the program began in 2010, Steele said.

“National studies indicate that teenagers’ intentional abuse of prescription drugs is a growing problem, due in part to the reported perception by young people that prescription drugs are safer than illegal street drugs,” Steele said.

“The District Attorney’s Office works closely with the Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE) Task Force to educate teens about the dangers of using prescription drugs prescribed to someone else or abusing their own prescribed medications,” Steele added.

Steele said prosecutors have made presentations about the dangers of prescription drug abuse to middle and high schoolers in eight school districts since the program’s inception in December 2014, reaching more than 16,000 students and 45 parents.
Steele looks at heroin seized during recent bust/Photo by Carl Hessler Jr.

Additionally, the county’s drug treatment court, preside over by Judge Steven T. O’Neill, provides intensive substance abuse treatment and related services to offenders while they are under supervision by the justice system. The treatment team approach involves the district attorney, the judge, the public defender, treatment providers and probation officials to achieve life-changing goals, Steele said.

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