Drug issue is focus of Monessen public forum
As of last Friday, Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha had investigated 23 confirmed and suspected fatal drug overdose cases since Jan. 1.
“That's already more than all of 2002, my first year,” he said. “We have 10 more months to go.”
Some of those Westmoreland County fatal overdoses, plus others, occurred in the Mid-Mon Valley, no stranger to the growing drug problem and crimes committed to support the habits of addicts of all races, ages, genders and status.
It further affirms what I reported in a special column Jan. 30 titled “Drugs: Our Valley's most pressing issue,” discussing how “hard drugs” such as heroin, oxycodone, cocaine and methamphetamines are ruining lives and threatening the welfare and security of a once-comfortable home to respectable, law-abiding folks.
It further emphasizes the need for coordinated, effective action as outlined in a sequel Feb. 6 titled “Unique situations call for unique solutions,” discussing geographic, jurisdictional, communications and other obstacles that law enforcement personnel encounter trying to reign in rampant drug use and sales.
Bacha emailed his appreciation for the news coverage. “The more the better,” he wrote. “The public needs to know.”
That's what police, public officials, medical personnel and experts hope to accomplish at 6:30 p.m. today at Monessen High School.
“Drugs are Robbing Our Community” is the theme of a special public presentation that you're encouraged to attend.
If you care about the future of our area, if you'd like to gain better understanding of the problem, if you want to help contain the biggest cancer affecting the Mid-Mon Valley, you'll be there.
The forum being held in conjunction with a dozen sponsors isn't just for people from Monessen. Everybody is welcome from both sides of the Mon River.
Bacha will be there, along with Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck and officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Justice and other government agencies.
Experts such as Dr. Yesh Navalgund of the DNA Pain Clinic and CEO Holly Martin of the Greenbriar Treatment Center will be there to explain how people get addicted and what they can do to escape a drug-dependent life.
So will Katrin and Ashley, two recovering addicts willing to share their horrific experiences.
Unfortunately, people who should be in the audience will be elsewhere, shooting up, sniffing, snorting or swallowing while ruthless drug dealers count their fools' money.
Since my columns of several weeks ago, I've received enough feedback to conclude this is a priority issue if the Mid-Mon Valley hopes to recover from job and population losses and to be a viable community.
“Students are crying because one of their friends was just found hanging in house from suicide brought on by drugs,” a local high school administrator emailed me. “When are these people going to learn? Unbelievable.”
“We have been through hell and back the last three years helping a nephew whose father kicked him out and his mother went along with it because of his drug abuse,” an aunt wrote. “I cannot begin to tell you not only the financial loss we have suffered but the emotional loss as well.”
“It's devastating to see what heroin is doing to these kids,” an acquaintance emailed. “Families are afraid to seek help because they feel ashamed or think it's only them. They finally get the kid into rehab but the damage has been done and most times it's too late!”
She believes she has two drug dealers living on her street.
“You have no idea,” she wrote. “Then again, you might, because there's so damned much of it right here.”
Thought du jour. People who are not part of the cure are part of the problem.
Joe Grata is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.