The dras­tic and deadly face of opi­oid epi­demic

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE -

The an­swer to the heroin epi­demic re­mains elu­sive. Tougher penal­ties for drug deal­ers is a start.

How in­sid­i­ous is the opi­oid epi­demic that is rav­aging so many of our com­mu­ni­ties.

Two re­cent sto­ries show just how ne­far­i­ous – and deadly – this prob­lem is, and how far we still need to go in com­bat­ing it.

Last week a 39-year-old Ch­ester woman was charged with drug de­liv­ery re­sult­ing in death, among a slew of other charges.

Po­lice say Alexan­dria Santa Bar­bara sold her neigh­bor, a 51-year-old Trainer man, a $10 bag of heroin.

At least she be­lieved it was heroin. It turned out to be pure fen­tanyl.

Fen­tanyl is quickly be­com­ing al­most as big a prob­lem as heroin in the opi­oid wars. It’s a pow­er­ful syn­thetic, 50 to 100 times more pow­er­ful than the com­mon heroin found on the street.

It is now of­ten be­ing added to heroin to in­crease the ‘kick,’ of­ten with deadly re­sults.

Then a man who was al­ready in state prison on drug-deal­ing charges for trans­port­ing 1,500 bags of heroin in his car was charged with the sale of a fa­tal over­dose of the drug.

How cheap is life in the drug wars? ‘

Po­lice say that Raheem Harper swapped heroin for a PlayS­ta­tion game.

A 28-year-old Ch­ester man was killed by the heroin laced with fen­tanyl in April 2017.

Harper was ar­rested later that day in Tinicum Town­ship. He was re­leased on bail.

But he was stopped again less a month later in Clifton Heights when res­i­dents re­ported a ve­hi­cle sus­pected of tak­ing part in drug trans­ac­tions in the bor­ough.

Harper was pulled over and a search of the ve­hi­cle turned up 1,500 pack­ets of heroin.

Some of the pack­ets matched those found at the scene of the ear­lier fa­tal over­dose.

In to­tal Harper is now look­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of spend­ing nearly 70 years in prison. Santa Bar­bara faces of a maximum of 20 to 40 years be­hind bars.

The Delaware County dis­trict at­tor­ney is wield­ing the new felony charge of drug de­liv­ery re­sult­ing in death as the lat­est tool in the opi­oids war.

She is hop­ing it sends a pow­er­ful mes­sage to drug deal­ers, at least as pow­er­ful as the poi­son they are ped­dling.

This re­gion has been in the fore­front of the bat­tle vs. heroin. Delaware, Ch­ester and Mont­gomery coun­ties have es­tab­lished heroin task forces. They have set up drop-off boxes where res­i­dents can get rid of un­used opi­oid pre­scrip­tions or painkillers. They have ar­rested doc­tors sus­pected of operating lit­tle more than pill mills, hand­ing out painkillers like candy. Delaware County has even filed suit against the drug­mak­ers. Of­fi­cials pushed for David’s Law, which re­sulted in the mir­a­cle, over­dose-re­vers­ing drug Nar­can be­ing placed in po­lice and first re­spon­der ve­hi­cles.

The drug has been used to save thou­sands of lives since it went into ef­fect.

The an­swer to the heroin epi­demic re­mains elu­sive. Some law en­force­ment of­fi­cers point out they are now see­ing re­peat heroin of­fend­ers re­vived from death’s door by Nar­can, only to go right back to the prob­lem that landed them in such dire straits.

Cer­tainly more treat­ment and re­hab op­tions are needed.

A new fa­cil­ity opened at Crozer Ch­ester Med­i­cal Cen­ter has been full since they opened the doors.

Delaware County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Katay­oun Copeland is fully aware of the depth of the prob­lem.

“We’ve got­ten to­gether as a com­mu­nity, as our Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s office in com­bi­na­tion with County Coun­cil, in com­bi­na­tion with our treat­ment providers, our recovery en­ters and are try­ing to find new and in­no­va­tive ways to deal with the epi­demic,” she said.

“We rec­og­nize that we will do what­ever we need to do to make sure our com­mu­nity mem­bers are kept safe.”

That in­cludes this new felony charge of drug de­liv­ery re­sult­ing in death.

Those who in­sist on ped­dling this menace – in par­tic­u­lar those who do so with knowl­edge that the much more pow­er­ful – and deadly – fen­tanyl has been added to their poi­son, de­serve to face the full wrath of the law.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.