overdose

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.

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.

Charles Krupa / AP

Pittsburgh-area law enforcement agencies are equipping K-9 handlers with naloxone as reports of dangerous opioid overdoses continue to sweep the Midwest.

Allegheny County Police Officer Steve Dawkins said dangerous situations are in his 4-year-old partner's job description. 

iStock / WITF

As Philadelphia heads for a record year of drug overdose deaths, a task force is proposing a series of actions, from combatting stigma to considering allowing safe sites where drug users could inject heroin.

Mayor Jim Kenney was joined by Governor Tom Wolf in outlining the task force's findings Friday.

Kenney convened the 23-member group in January to focus on developing a plan to combat the city's opioid epidemic.

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Rangers and personnel at Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks and forests will soon be equipped with the overdose-reversal drug naloxone.

 

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday that the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources would provide its officers with the medication, used to help minimize opioid-related fatalities.

 

“We’re losing over 10 people every day to this disaster,” Wolf said. “This is an epidemic that affects everybody in Pennsylvania – all across the state. Rural areas, rich and poor, men and women. It affects everybody.”

 

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.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County is on track to see a record number of fatal drug overdoses involving fentanyl in 2016. According to the Medical Examiner’s office, 114 overdose victims have been found to have the highly potent opioid in their systems, just eight shy of last year’s all-time record.

The prevalence of fentanyl among overdose victims has skyrocketed over the last three years. In all of 2013, just eight fatal overdoses involved fentanyl.

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.

Spilled pill bottle
Charles Williams / Flickr

Pennsylvania is experiencing an overdose epidemic.

Allegheny County alone has seen its number fatal drug overdoses nearly double over the past five years, from 227 in 2010 to 409 in 2015. Neighboring West Virginia, where more than 35 residents out of every 100,000 died of drug overdoses in 2014, is home to the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country.     

Wikimedia Commons

The rate of young, white females dying from drug overdoses in Pennsylvania is increasing faster than other demographics, according to a new report from the University of Pittsburgh.

Pitt researchers found fatal drug overdoses in Pennsylvania have increased 14-fold in the last 35 years, and deaths for young white females are climbing especially fast.

The paper's co-author, Jeanine Buchanich, said she isn’t entirely sure why. It isn’t just about the quantity of different drugs, she said, but how they’re using them.

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.

State Gets CDC Money To Fund Prescription Drug Tracker

Sep 10, 2015

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has received a renewable $900,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will go toward battling the state's prescription drug overdose epidemic.

Heroin and opioid overdose are the leading cause of accidental death in Pennsylvania. More people die from overdose than do from car accidents -- 2,400 in 2013 alone.

Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf, called the overdoses “a critical public health crisis.”

Pennsylvania State Police will now carry the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone in their cruisers.

In Pennsylvania, heroin and prescription drug abuse is the leading cause of accidental death, killing more people each year than motor vehicle accidents. In 2014, state police investigated 183 overdose deaths and 126 non-fatal overdoses, according to Gary Tennis, acting secretary of the Department of Drug and alcohol Programs.

Heroin use has been on the rise across the U.S. since 2007, with more than 660,000 admitted users between 2011 and 2012, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In one week last January, 22 people in western Pennsylvania died of an overdose of heroin and fentanyl.

To combat deaths caused by heroin and other narcotic overdoses, the Pitcairn Police Department is partnering with Forbes Hospital to train and equip officers to administer opioid “antidote,” Narcan.