Lancaster County has its first county-wide collaborative task force to combat heroin abuse.
The Lancaster County Anti-Heroin Task Force announced its launch Thursday afternoon, when numerous individuals – including mayors, commissioners, police chiefs and prosecutors – were in union for a conference on strategy and goals.
The panel’s first objective: Reduce heroin-related deaths in Lancaster County.
Drug overdose deaths in the county have more than tripled in the last four years, in large part due to the heroin scourge which plagues every county community, urban and rural alike.
Heroin, here and across Pennsylvania, has become the top drug of choice for patients entering rehab – surpassing even alcohol.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” District Attorney Craig Stedman said at the launch. Heroin-related deaths and crimes “are routine.”
The task force intends to raise awareness and promote education on the drug’s devastating impact using a first-ever collaborative approach of its kind.
Initial forums will be held in coming months in the Donegal area, Millersville and Columbia.
Tim Bradley, Mount Joy’s mayor, chairs the Task Force, which includes county Mayors’ Association, Chiefs of Police, District Attorney’s office, Coroner’s office, Lancaster-Lebanon school superintendents, and numerous other departments and offices.
“We need to take a collective stand against heroin,” Bradley said at the conference.
All three county commissioners spoke at Thursday’s event, along with Bradley and Millersville Mayor Dick Moriarity, DA Stedman, and Carol Kuntz, executive director of CompassMark.
Commissioners Josh Parsons and Craig Lehman asked municipal leaders to break down municipal “silos” and look beyond their own towns in a unified fight against the epidemic.
Kuntz said many addicts and their families aren’t even aware of the wealth of recovery resources available, 24 hours a day, in Lancaster County.
District Attorney Stedman noted that nearly all of the county’s property crimes (i.e. home burglaries and thefts) are drug-related, many specifically tied to heroin.
Last year, more than 2,500 Pennsylvanians died of drug overdose.
Without a stand against the heroin epidemic, Stedman said, “2016 will be even worse.”
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