Parents get an education on area's drug problem at Norwin-hosted summit
Knocking on a front door in the middle of the night to alert parents their child has died from a drug overdose is the most distressing part of a coroner's duties, Ken Bacha said.
“It's been the No. 1 biggest issue that has come through our office,” Bacha, the Westmoreland County coroner, said. “The worst part is when we have to walk up on someone's porch, see the light come on and tell parents like yourselves that your son or daughter died.”
Bacha, along with a doctor, detectives, drug counselors and a recovering drug addict, spoke to parents during a drug summit at Norwin High School. More than 100 parents attended the forum last Thursday night.
Over the past 10 years, the number of fatal drug overdoses in Westmoreland County has climbed from 22 in 2002 to 78 last year. There have been 81 fatal overdoses so far this year, Bacha said.
“The Route 30 corridor, that's where the drugs are coming from Allegheny County,” he said. “This is one of our hotbeds for fatal overdoses.”
Drug investigations throughout North Huntingdon have led police to seize medications such as oxycodone and alprazolam, among other prescription drugs. Police constantly are making arrests, North Huntingdon Detective Sgt. Jeffrey Bouldin said. Bouldin began teaching drug-education courses for the Norwin School District in 1992. “Back then, I taught the kids to say ‘No,'” he said. “That's not enough. I talk about the heroin epidemic that's killing our community.”
Bouldin said that the department works closely with local pharmacies to detect fraudulent prescriptions. “Is there a prescription drug problem? Yes, a very bad prescription drug problem,” he said. “The heroin problem we have in this community is worse than you can imagine. Now, the pill problem is taking over.”
Panel speakers encouraged parents to be vigilant and take note if a child's behavior has changed.
Parents should be aware if a child is hanging around different people or if they find wrappers or bags they might not recognize, said Donna Kean, who works in the Prevention Projects division at St. Vincent College.
“We want to save the lives that we can,” she said. “We want those children to go on to that next grade level.”
Amy Kolb of North Huntingdon said the forum was helpful. She talked to detectives and inspected a stamp bag of heroin after the presentation.
“You can always learn something,” she said.
Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626.