Cumberland Times-News

Local News

February 1, 2014

Pennsylvania heroin overdoses prompt police crackdown, awareness push

Deadly mix of drugs also kills in Maryland

CUMBERLAND — Twenty heroin deaths in recent weeks in southwestern Pennsylvania have prompted collaborative efforts by Somerset County officials to warn of the dangers associated with heroin use, inform how to report crimes involving heroin and to point heroin addicts to a place where they can get help.

“Due to the continued rise in heroin use throughout Somerset County along with the rise in heroin overdoses in western Pennsylvania, the Somerset County Authority for Drug and Alcohol, the Pennsylvania State Police and the Somerset County district attorney are releasing a statement how to find help for treatment and the consequences of continued use,” said Erin Howsare, SCA director.

Heroin/opiate users who want treatment may call the SCA at 814-445-1530.

Howsare said the SCA will assess for the level of treatment needed and, if needed, will coordinate the referral for admission into treatment, and pay for the treatment if the client does not have insurance and cannot afford treatment.

After-hours help is available by calling the Accessline at 800-452-0218, according to Howsare.

Somerset County District Attorney Li-sa-Lazzari-Strasiser said, “In the last few weeks across southwestern Pennsylvania, a deadly mix of heroin and the narcotic fentanyl has been associated with multiple overdoses. Over 20 of the overdoses resulted in death.

“Recent investigations indicate the tainted heroin has made its way into Somerset County and sellers are not advising of the lethal mix. The District Attorney’s Office along with local and state law enforcement agencies are working together to identify and prosecute those using, selling and producing these drugs to get this lethal mix of heroin off the streets,” she said.

The prosecutor urged anyone with information regarding the use, trafficking or manufacturing of heroin to contact the Somerset County Drug Task Force at 866-609-9989 or email to druginfo@co.somerset.pa.us. All provided information will be kept confidential.

Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. William Link said, “The Pennsylvania State Police are asking for assistance in locating and seizing heroin in Somerset County and arresting those responsible for its distribution.

“Although there is potential for any dose of heroin to be deadly, heroin mixed with fentanyl greatly increases the potential for death.”

Anyone with information on the location of heroin may contact state police at 814-445-4104.

In Maryland, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reported an increase in the number of deaths linked to a potent and deadly batch of heroin that is tainted with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

According to OCME data, between September and January, at least 37 Maryland deaths were caused by the lethal drug combination. The fentanyl/heroin deaths represent approximately 12 percent of 318 overdose deaths during the same time period.

 According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fentanyl is estimated to be 80 times more powerful than morphine and hundreds of times more potent than heroin.

The presence of fentanyl dramatically increases the risk of an overdose death.

 

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