Mt. Lebanon sets 1st anti-drug meeting
A task force taking aim at the problem of drugs in Mt. Lebanon will meet for the first time this month after a series of overdose deaths that shook the two elected officials leading it.
Mt. Lebanon Commissioner Kelly Fraasch and school director Josephine Posti announced last month that they would form an anti-drug task force. They plan its first meeting for March 20, when they will sit down with representatives of law enforcement, drug and alcohol treatment programs, churches, the legal system and families of overdose victims.
“All the entities are working hard, but it's a huge issue,” Posti said. “We hope to get everyone together and see how we can put out the sign that ‘Mt. Lebanon is no longer open for business' ” from drug dealers.
Mt. Lebanon police Lt. Aaron Lauth said the community had an apparent spike in overdoses in the past 12 months, including four fatal heroin overdoses, one methadone overdose, and two nonfatal overdoses.
The victims lived throughout the community and had varying ages. The most recent heroin death, on Jan. 24, was the youngest at 19, Lauth said.
Posti said she and Fraasch decided to form the task force after seeing each other at that victim's funeral.
“The first big step will be defining the problem, then coming up with potential solutions,” Fraasch said. Because victims' family members will be involved, the initial meeting will not be open to the public, she said.
Lis Tomlin, a counselor who practices in Mt. Lebanon and sometimes works with teenagers, said she has noticed an apparent increase in drug use, even if that wasn't the initial problem for which teens came to her.
“It seems to be one of those things, scarily enough, that teenagers will mention in an offhand way,” Tomlin said. “It seems it's not acknowledged as threatening to them.”
Fraasch said one goal for the task force is to heighten awareness of treatment options available in Mt. Lebanon.
“There's still such a stigma to the entire addiction process that people don't get the resources they need,” Fraasch said. “There may be someone with a relative going through addiction but they won't reach out to a friend or neighbor to say anything.”
Magisterial District Judge Blaise Larotonda is scheduled to attend, and to speak to Mt. Lebanon commissioners at their March 25 meeting.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.