Heroin

Mary Altaffer / AP

A former Pennsylvania police officer who was found unconscious of an apparent overdose at the station has been charged with stealing drugs seized as evidence and hammering a hole in the wall of the secured evidence room.

Former Johnstown officer William Slisz was arraigned Thursday on charges including burglary and evidence tampering.

State police say Slisz began stealing heroin from a temporary evidence locker in 2015 and later stole from the secure room. They say he then lost access to the room and crawled through the ceiling into a colleague's office to get the key.

frankieleon / Flickr

A new University of Pittsburgh-led study reveals Pennsylvania Medicaid enrollees prescribed an opioid are still highly likely to continue that prescription after an overdose from a legal opioid or heroin. 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

For the first time since Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro took office in January, his office has filed charges of drug delivery resulting in death against an Allegheny County resident.

Carolyn Kaster / AP

Placing much of the blame on smoking, a study chronicling the ongoing health crisis in Appalachia has concluded that the 13-state region suffers from a growing disparity in infant mortality and life expectancy, two key indicators of "a nation's health and well-being."

PA Internet News Service

A drug ring that sold nearly $10 million worth of heroin and cocaine in Altoona and Johnstown is no longer operating following a bust on Monday.

Police arrested 16 people as part the “Dragon Heroin Pipeline,” which officials say were running drugs from Philadelphia to Blair and Cambria counties.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Calling the case "an American tragedy," a federal judge has sentenced a heroin dealer to serve more than two decades in prison for his role in the overdose death of a 20-year-old Pennsylvania man.

Toby Talbot / AP

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced plans to supply nearly 300,000 drug deactivation and disposal pouches to a dozen counties hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

Everyone receiving a schedule II narcotic such as Percocet, oxycodone and fentanyl at a participating pharmacy will be offered a free Deterra disposal pouch, beginning August 1, Shapiro said.

“To be honest with you, at first I couldn’t believe it worked," Shapiro said of the drug disposal technology.

Behind The Headlines: Pennsylvania's Opioid Crisis Up-Close

May 10, 2017
Jessica Kourkounis / Keystone Crossroads

To be addicted

With an increasing number of opioid overdoses in Pennsylvania, attention from state and local officials is growing as well as public attention around the issue. In 2015, there were more than 3,500 drug related overdose deaths in the state, which marked a sharp increase from the previous year. In Philadelphia, 900 people died as a result of overdoses, which is three times the number of homicide victims.

You don’t wake up and say, ‘I want to be a heroin addict.’ 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

A soccer player, an athlete and a drug dealer sat together in a half-circle in the center of the stage. Each character slumped in their chair, reflective and resigned, as they explained how their prescription drug addiction began.

In the audience were 9-12th grade students at Cornell High School. The district was chosen to participate in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s national 360 Strategy, being piloted for the first time in the Pittsburgh region.

Cliff Owen / AP

Fentanyl deaths outranked those attributed to heroin last year for the first time in Allegheny County, according to data released Thursday by the medical examiner's office.

Coroners and medical examiners in all but one of the 10-county region reported spikes in drug overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016 -- up 44 percent in Allegheny County and 38 percent in Westmoreland County.

A Song Within The Storm: How Motherhood And Addiction Collide

Feb 16, 2017
Maranie Staab / PublicSource

Sarah Womack stands in the center of her daughter’s pink room and explains why she had to take the frame off the bed and leave the mattress on the floor. After the Office of Children, Youth and Families inspected her home, the agency claimed that a bed with a frame would make a room seem too much like a bedroom and a bedroom would make things “too confusing” for Sarah’s daughter, Lola. The mattress on the floor makes Lola’s room a playroom instead.

Lola lives with her great aunt and uncle. That is her home. Not with Sarah. Not yet.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 FM WESA

When Pennsylvania Attorney General Elect Josh Shapiro takes the oath of office Jan. 17 he will be moving into an office that has been racked by controversy.  The last elected Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, was sentenced in October to 10 to 23 months in prison on charges of perjury and abuse of her office.

Shapiro said he believes he as a track record of acting ethically and will instill that in his staff.

Hartford Police Department via AP

Recently, paramedics in the midstate have been carefully approaching the scene of a heroin overdose.

They fear they'll come in contact with heroin mixed with a tranquilizer often used on large animals.

Emergency responders have already encountered carfentanil in western Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

It's said to be 10,000 times stronger than morphine, and is often used to tranquilize an elephant.

Marisa Acevedo / 90.5 WESA

Twenty Centers of Excellence, which will treat Pennsylvanians struggling with addiction, will open by Oct. 1.

This would help the roughly 4,500 people across Pennsylvania suffering from opioid use disorders who do not have access to treatment.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County needs more resources to battle the opioid epidemic gripping southwestern Pennsylvania, Human Services and Health department representatives said at a state legislative hearing Tuesday.

Flickr user Shaine Hatch

The state of Pennsylvania and University of Pittsburgh announced a new partnership aimed at helping stem the tide of opioid addiction, county by county.

“It doesn’t matter where you go in the commonwealth, in southwestern PA, in urban PA, rural Pennsylvania and suburban Pennsylvania. It doesn’t matter what you look like or what zip code you come from, too many lives are being taken by heroin and opioids,” said Josh Shapiro, head of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, which is funding the new center.

Frankie Leon / flickr

District judges in Westmoreland County are trying a new approach to addressing drug abuse in their community. They’ve implemented an Alternative Adjudication Program for defendants charged with minor drug crimes focusing on rehabilitation rather than jail time. We’ll ask Harrison City District Judge Helen Kistler and Westmoreland County Judge Jason Buczak about the new program.

Charles Williams / Flickr

While much of the testimony at a state Senate hearing in Pittsburgh on Thursday focused on the need for the state to fund opioid addiction treatment regimens, one expert recommended the state take legal action against insurers who illegally deny coverage of long-term rehabilitation programs for those addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers.

Wikimedia Commons

Drug-related deaths are usually ruled accidental.

But one Pennsylvania coroner said he's ruling some overdoses homicides. Lycoming County Coroner Charles Kiessling said he’s not the first in Pennsylvania to interpret toxicology reports in that way and that it's legal. 

Drug-related deaths are on the rise in Pennsylvania - the state saw more than 2,700 in 2014. That's an increase of 13 percent from the year before. Among all overdoses, heroin is the most frequently identified drug. 

Ben Allen / WITF

 

The opioid addiction crisis in Pennsylvania isn't just impacting adults, it's taking a toll on babies in the wombs of mothers who use prescription pain killers, heroin or Fentanyl.

WITF reporter Ben Allen recently reported on the issue for NPR and he spoke with WESA's Larkin Page-Jacobs about what he learned while working on the story. Allen said he visited a hospital in Harrisburg where they treat infants born addicted to opioids.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

In 2012, Lynda Carr lost her son Charles to a heroin addiction. Three years later, her stepson was killed in a drug-related car accident.

“Most people probably would not recover from that, but in spite of her loss, Lynda has chosen to give back,” said one person, whom Lynda sponsors as part of Nar-Anon, which relies on the anonymity of its members.  “She gives back by helping people like me every day.”

Angela S / flickr

Throughout the country, municipalities are being impacted by the abuse of heroin and opioid use. What’s being done in the commonwealth to address the problem? We’ll pose that question to Pennsylvania Deputy Secretary of Health Lauren Hughes and discover how the health department plans to work with healthcare professionals throughout the state to confront opioid abuse. 

Mike Richards / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh FBI Office, as part of its Heroin Outreach Prevention and Education Initiative, has launched a pilot program that seeks to educate young people on the dangers of opioids, rather than just continue making arrests.

The program allows students to take ownership of the problem in western Pennsylvania, according to United States Attorney David Hickton.

Lauri Rantala / Flickr

A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh has indicted a Washington County man on four counts of drug offenses related to trafficking heroin laced with the painkiller fentanyl, U.S. Attorney David Hickton announced Tuesday.

Ronald Milliard, 24, of Washington was allegedly involved in the distribution of heroin that was tied to at least two overdoses in Washington County in August, according to Hickton. The county has been wracked by 222 overdoses and 33 overdose deaths since that month. Twenty-seven overdoses fell within a two-day span.

frankieleon / Flickr

  In the past week, three people have died in Allegheny County from opioid overdoses.

U.S. Attorney David Hickton said Wednesday there were 15 non-fatal overdoses in Cambria County since Monday and at least a dozen non-fatal overdoses in Washington County since the weekend.

Hickton, the western Pennsylvania federal prosecutor, said law enforcement agencies are now treating every overdose as a criminal investigation.

Craig Zirpolo / Flickr user VCU CNS

Norwin School District in Westmoreland County will start stocking the anti-opioid drug Naloxone, also known as Narcan, in its school nurses’ offices early this year.

Superintendent William Kerr said training for nurses, coaches and administrators is scheduled for February.

An increasing number of school districts are keeping the drug on hand, as the number of opioid overdose deaths in the region continue to skyrocket.

Frankleleon / Flickr

A new report – the first of its kind in Pennsylvania – which looked at drug overdose totals for 62 counties, highlights the problem of prescription drug and heroin abuse. 

“What’s most notable about this report is the amount of overdose deaths that are attributable to prescription drugs and heroin,” said Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Patrick Trainor. “That’s where you’re seeing the most significant numbers.”

Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

As drug and law enforcement agencies find a growing link between prescription pain killers and heroin use, they’re trying to attack the problem of abuse and overdose from multiple sides.

Among their allies are those doling out prescription medication: pharmacists. A little more than 200 southwestern Pennsylvania pharmacists are in Pittsburgh through Friday for a conference hosted by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Wikimedia Commons

A new report shows that heroin abuse in Pennsylvania continues to grow and recommends that treatment be a priority.   

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania just released its second report titled, “Heroin: Combating this Growing Epidemic in PA.” It includes testimony from public hearings held over the summer and focuses on the growing problem of heroin abuse, pointing out that the drug affects a diverse demographic.

Pittsburgh's location as a drug-trafficking corridor warranted the city's inclusion into a federal initiative aiming to stymie the nation's opiate epidemic.

“360 Strategy” coordinates federal agents, local officers and community groups into a three-fold approach, said Gary Tuggle, Special Agent in Charge for the Philadelphia Division for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. 

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