Fentanyl driving opioid crisis in Berks, nearby counties


The drug overdose crisis in the seven-county region centered on Berks took 938 lives in 2017, an increase of about 11 percent from the previous year that was fueled by abuse of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid once used primarily to treat chronic or cancer-related pain.

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In Opioid Epidemic, Some Cities Strain to Afford OD Antidote


BALTIMORE (AP) — On a Baltimore street corner, public health workers hand out a life-saving overdose antidote to residents painfully familiar with the ravages of America’s opioid epidemic. But the training wraps up quickly; all the naloxone inhalers are claimed within 20 minutes.

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Opioid addiction costs employers $2.6B a year for care


A new report shows large employers spent $2.6 billion to treat opioid addiction and overdoses in 2016, an eight-fold increase since 2004. More than half went to treat employees’ children.

The analysis released Thursday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation finds such spending cost companies and workers about $26 per enrollee in 2016.

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Groups raising funds for Narcan training

THE CITIZENS' VOICE | 05.04.2018 WILKES-BARRE — Local community groups are organizing a basketball tournament to help raise money for Narcan training and drug recovery efforts in Luzerne County. Erik Coolbaugh Foundation and United We Stand, Divided We Fall are...

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Jeannette leads Westmoreland in overdose deaths, officials look to reverse trend

TRIBLIVE | 04.03.2018

Jeannette officials have asked the Westmoreland County Drug Overdose Task Force to help them deal with a troubling trend in overdose deaths revealed in the coroner’s analysis of 2017 cases.

The city had 21 fatal overdoses last year, surpassing the county’s largest municipality, Hempfield Township, which had 19. Yet Hempfield has more than 41,300 residents, more than quadruple Jeannette’s 9,300.

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His family was ‘dismantled’ by addiction. And it can happen to anyone.

PENNLIVE | 03.30.2018

It sounds like the perfect childhood, the one every kid should have. Dad was a blue-collar worker who coached the kids’ baseball teams.

Mom was a homemaker and a stickler for demanding her three sons complete their homework and excel in school. She was involved with the PTA, cheered in the stands at sporting events and led her family to church services.

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City joins opioid lawsuit

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE | 03.30.2018

WILKES-BARRE — The city will join other government agencies across the nation in suing drug manufacturers and wholesale distributors that officials claim are responsible for making the opioid epidemic possible by “dumping millions of dollars’ worth of prescription opioids” into the community.

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Lackawanna sees surge in babies born addicted to drugs

THE CITIZENS’ VOICE | 03.28.2018

Nearly 3 percent of Lackawanna County infants hospitalized in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 were born addicted to drugs, a new study shows.

Between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2017, 118 Lackawanna County newborns were hospitalized with neonatal abstinence syndrome — an array of problems that occur in infants exposed to addictive drugs, often opioids, while in the womb.

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Specialist tells business community: Addiction ‘cycle’ often begins with legal pain pills


Marlene Singer took the message of addiction to the local business community on Wednesday, tracing the pathway from painkillers to heroin to the risk of a fatal overdose.

“Opioids, whether they are prescription pain pills or heroin or any other type of opioid, all work in … the part of the brain that deals with breathing, heart rate, and that’s where it becomes so dangerous,” Singer, a community health and employee wellness coordinator with Conemaugh Health System, told those at a luncheon hosted by the Cambria Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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15 deaths a day is horrifying, but that might be undercounting the opioid death toll


HARRISBURG – Everyone knows the state’s opioid crisis is bad. But how bad? Inconsistent reporting makes that a frustrating unknown.

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, wants Pennsylvania to fix that. He has proposed legislation that would require more uniform standards and training and establish a tighter deadline for reporting drug deaths.

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Wilkes-Barre announces lawsuit against opioid makers, distributors

THE TIMES LEADER | 03.29.2018

WILKES-BARRE — Following the lead of Luzerne County and other cities and counties nationwide, Wilkes-Barre announced Thursday it is suing five of the largest manufacturers of prescription opioids and their related firms plus three of the largest wholesale drug distributors.

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Fox Chapel man’s death linked to anti-diarrheal overdose

PENNLIVE | 03.29.2018

A Fox Chapel man found dead in his home in November died from an overdose of an anti-diarrhea medication that can be used to mimic the high of opioids, medical examiner records show.

Arjun Patel, 29, was pronounced dead Nov. 8. A notice from the Allegheny County Medical Examiner earlier this week lists Patel’s cause of death as loperamide poisoning.

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Westmoreland overdose deaths taper off, trend could be regional

TRIBLIVE | 03.28.2018

Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha released the 2017 year-end statistical report Wednesday that shows the county reached the predicted overdose death tally of 193, a new record.

But it is what last year’s records don’t show that has him optimistic: drug deaths are declining.

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2 men charged in Montco with ordering deadly opioid carfentanil from China

THE INQUIRER | 03.28.2018

In a drug bust described as the first of its kind in Montgomery County, two men were arrested Monday night and charged with ordering an extremely potent synthetic opioid through the mail from China and distributing it locally, authorities announced Wednesday.

Jamil Chapman, 26, and his nephew Nasai Chapman, 23, of Collingdale, Delaware County, are accused of ordering and distributing fentanyl and its deadlier cousin carfentanil, a narcotic powerful enough to tranquilize elephants. Prosecutors said that 300 grams of fentanyl were seized and that the pair could be linked to 400 to 500 grams of carfentanil shipped to the United States from China.

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Safe injection site to get airing in Philly neighborhood most scarred by opioids

THE INQUIRER | 03.27.2018

In Kensington, this much is clear: No other neighborhood in Philadelphia has seen more overdose deaths, or more visible suffering amid a city opioid epidemic that claimed an estimated 1,200 lives in 2017. Along with neighboring Fairhill, it occupies less than 2 percent of Philadelphia’s land area, but 18 percent of all city overdoses occurred in that small space, according to an Inquirer analysis of city data.

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Schools can be first defense against addiction


Spenser Flowers went from homecoming king to overdose victim in 27 months. At the Hampton Township School District, his death hammered home the reality that even if there’s no sign of pills or stamp bags in the halls or bleachers, graduates will soon run into opioids, some will try them, and a few will die.

“You’re haunted by that: Someone so young, dying from something that could’ve been prevented,” said Hampton’s high school principal, Marguerite Imbarlina. “That was somewhat of a wake-up call. … We need to try every avenue, because every kid is different.”

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Parents and student peers can help prevent high school opioid use


Parents can find reasons for hope, and fear, in the latest research on teens and drugs. They can also find more nuanced do’s and don’ts than their predecessors typically got during the “Just Say No” era.

Take 1,000 kids ages 12 to 17, and chances are you’ll find just six opioid abusers, according to research out of Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, published this month in the magazine Pediatrics. But in the 18-25 group, the prevalence of opioid addiction is roughly double that.

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Foundation hosts event to combat addiction at home, in schools

THE TIMES-TRIBUNE | 03.23.2018

MAYFIELD — Standing among a group of parents at Mayfield Elementary School, Carrie Chase read a letter from her 7-year-old great-niece about the effects of addiction on families.

“Mommy, when you go away, I feel sad and a little bit mad. I wish you will stop doing bad things like going to jail, or do drugs, or when you don’t play with me when you come home from jail,” Chase read.

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Outreach group knows all too well the hardships of addiction


Parents from Bucks County’s How to Save a Life Foundation go to Kensington at least twice a month to rescue drug users from the streets and get them into treatment. Since losing her son from addiction in 2006, Marti Hottenstein and her group have helped dozens of users find recovery.

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Opioid epidemic could spark HIV outbreak, health experts fear


Pennsylvania’s widespread opioid epidemic, combined with controversial drug paraphernalia laws and the lack of needle exchange programs in rural areas, could spark a devastating and costly HIV outbreak, health experts fear.

HIV outbreaks have hit several parts of the country, including rural Scott County, Indiana, which could cost the state more than $100 million.

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Opioid epidemic could spark HIV outbreak, health experts fear

TRIBLIVE | 03.18.2018

Pennsylvania’s widespread opioid epidemic, combined with controversial drug paraphernalia laws and the lack of needle exchange programs in rural areas, could spark a devastating and costly HIV outbreak, health experts fear.

HIV outbreaks have hit several parts of the country, including rural Scott County, Indiana, which could cost the state more than $100 million.

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Fentanyl-cocaine combo taking lives in Western Pa.


A deadly blend of cocaine and the powerful opioid fentanyl is appearing on Western Pennsylvania streets and autopsy tables, according to police, coroners and other experts.

The combination is a modern “speedball,” with stimulant and depressant drugs like the stuff that killed actor John Belushi in 1982 and thousands of others, said a UPMC addiction medicine specialist, Dr. Antoine Douaihy.

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Hospital volunteers soothe newborns withdrawing from opiates


PITTSBURGH – On a chilly Valentine’s Day morning, Beverly Thornton dons gloves and a hospital gown and picks up a baby she’s been soothing for the last few hours. She’s wrapping up her three-hour shift as a “cuddler” in the neonatal intensive care unit at UPMC-Magee-Womens Hospital.

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Grandparents caring for grandchildren as parents battle addiction


At a time when they thought they would be spending their retirement traveling or pursuing hobbies, a growing number of grandparents find themselves instead raising grandchildren, a consequence of the opioid epidemic.

Across America, about 2.7 million grandparents have been thrown into the role of day-to-day caregiver – changing diapers, making lunches, carpooling and attending PTA meetings – because their adult children are struggling with opioid addiction.

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Delivering death: Getting tougher on opioid dealers of all kinds


When a bullet-riddled body turns up in a gutter, there’s no question that a police investigation will follow. When a person dies of a drug overdose, however, police often dismiss it as a case of self-harm and close the file. That’s a mindset that should change so that victims’ families get justice and so murderers — make no mistake, dealers in fatal overdoses are murderers — get taken off the streets.

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Group teaches local students about dangers of drug abuse


WILKES-BARRE — Amid flashing lights and Korn’s “Freak on a Leash” came the sobering stories of opioid addiction: records numbers of overdoses, a couple who overdosed with their children in their home, a pregnant woman charged after using drugs.

It was the beginning of a presentation from DJ Choices, a group that teaches students about the dangers of drug abuse.

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Pa. emergency rooms see 81% spike in opioid overdoses, CDC reports


New data released by the CDC Tuesday shows America’s opioid epidemic is growing at an alarming rate and Pennsylvania is one of the hardest hit areas.

Nationally, in just one year, opioid overdoses jumped by 30 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control report.

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Pittsburgh, Allegheny County to hire law firm to study suing opioid makers


Allegheny County has hired a South Carolina law firm to explore whether the county should file a lawsuit against prescription opioid manufacturers, distributors and prescribers to recoup public money spent as a result of the opioid crisis.

The city of Pittsburgh also plans to hire the firm for the same purpose, pending City Council approval, officials said Tuesday.

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Allegheny County, Pittsburgh hire firm for likely opioid court fight


County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is taking executive action to enter into a contract with the national plaintiffs’ firm Motley Rice, whose co-founder, Joe Rice, is among the lead counsel guiding hundreds of opioid-related lawsuits in federal court in Cleveland. Mayor Bill Peduto plans to send to city council legislation to do the same.

Allegheny County and the city of Pittsburgh plan to sign on with one of the law firms at the center of massive litigation against companies that made or distributed opioids, officials announced Tuesday.

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Researchers say data offers hope in the opioid epidemic


A typical day in Allegheny County sees two fatal overdoses, and Eric Hulsey would very much like to know where and when — in advance.

He’s not there yet. But the manager of behavioral health analytics at the county Department of Human Services has spent much of the past year combing through data on 910 fatal overdoses.

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ODing Pa. mom accused of endangering child, 5

PENNLIVE | 2.26.18

More and more alleged heroin addicts who are also parents could be facing charges for endangering their children.

Case in point is a 29-year-old mother in western Pennsylvania who is now facing charges after allegedly overdosing last month, passing out and exposing her 5-year-old son to a syringe.

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The cost of the opioid epidemic: Nation spends billions

THE TIMES ONLINE | 2.25.2018

It’s an epidemic that has killed 184 Beaver County residents in the past two years.

At least 1,300 people have overdosed on drugs, predominantly fentanyl, since January 2016. It’s a crisis that has left state and local leaders scrambling to figure out a solution.

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IBX to provide Narcan to subscribers for no charge

THE INQUIRER | 02.20.2018

Independence Blue Cross will make naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug, available to its subscribers for no charge, the insurance giant announced on Tuesday. The medication, known best by the brand-name Narcan, is credited with saving thousands of lives in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

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Panel discussion on ending drug addiction scheduled Thursday

THE TIMES TRIBUNE | 02.19.2018

SCRANTON — Top area officials and advocates fighting opioid drug addiction will host an educational panel on addiction as a disease this week.

The Scranton-based Forever Sammi Foundation is hosting Family Night on the Disease of Addiction from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday in the Ice Box Complex, 3 Olive St., Scranton.

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Could a simple vaccine end heroin addiction? Narcan’s inventor says yes

PENNLIVE | 02.15.2018

It sounds too good to be true: A vaccine that would inoculate people against becoming addicted to heroin.

But the drug company that invented the Narcan-branded naloxone nasal spray that is saving the lives of thousands of opioid overdose victims believes such a game-changing vaccine is not only possible – but in development in its drug pipeline.

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Opioid prescriptions drop in Allegheny, Westmoreland counties but numbers remain high

TribLIVE | 02.12.2018

Opioid prescriptions in both Allegheny and Westmoreland counties have decreased over the past year.

But Allegheny County physicians still write enough prescriptions quarterly to medicate each resident of Pittsburgh, and those in Westmoreland could medicate one-fourth of the county, according to data recently released by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

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Recovery houses offer path to sobriety


The rules are strict for recovering addicts seeking a safe place for sober living at Murphy House in Washington.

Drugs and alcohol are obviously off-limits, but the men who live here also have mandatory chores, and they must attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings – one a day for the first 90 days they take a bed in the house on Houston Street, said house manager Patrick Arena.

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Gov. Wolf steps up efforts to curb opioid crisis

READING EAGLE | 1.30.2018

HARRISBURG – About 1,300 full-body scans of criminal offenders entering the Wernersville Community Corrections Center have been conducted in the past two weeks in just one aspect of a stepped-up Wolf administration push to curb the opioid drug overdose crisis.

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