HARRISBURG, Sept. 23, 2014 – Urged by state Sen. Judy Schwank to examine the growing problem of heroin and prescription drug abuse, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania canvassed the state and issued its report today.
Sen. Schwank said she worked with Sen. Gene Yaw, the center’s chairman of the board, to study the problem following a spate of heroin and prescription drug-related overdoses and deaths in Topton, Berks County.
As the center released its report today at the Capitol, Schwank said she is “encouraged” by their work and how Pennsylvanians will benefit.
“There is recognition now that this very serious problem is something that can be dealt with in the commonwealth. And I look forward to being a part of it,” Schwank said during the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s press conference. “I look forward to seeing what we will accomplish as a legislature and as a commonwealth to help target this problem.
“This is our blueprint. This is where we go from here, not only to make sure we pass the legislation that’s sitting before us right now, but to think about what we have to do in the future and focus on that.
“Legislation isn’t going to be the silver bullet. We need to ensure that our community members are educated; our youth, certainly, are educated; and our medical community understands the problem. It takes all of us, including law enforcement and our judiciary, to work together to resolve this.”
Schwank said she went to work on the heroin epidemic after 5 Topton residents died this past spring.
After first organizing a town hall meeting that attracted more than 10 times the people she expected to attend, Schwank said she looked across the commonwealth and approached Sen. Yaw.
Parents, families and communities were hurting, and continue to hurt, she said.
“You have to look into the face of an anguished parent to understand what they’re dealing with. And, there are so many of them out there,” Schwank said. “I don’t use the words epidemic or crisis lightly. But in the case of heroin abuse and opioid drug abuse, I believe those words are the words we should be using. That’s how serious this problem is.
“We applaud the Center for Rural Pennsylvania for focusing specifically on the issue in rural Pennsylvania. We know that this is an issue in our urban and suburban areas as well.”
Schwank recognized Reading Hospital’s chief of emergency medicine, Dr. Charles Barbera, for his role in helping to guide the response to the epidemic.
“He has been a wonderful advocate for us on this issue and has helped to guide us in some of our efforts in Berks County,” Schwank said.