Officials: Public education key to curbing abuse

As the heroin task force continues to look for avenues to curb the use of heroin among all county residents, many members of the group suggested that educating the entire public was key to them being successful.

“Education is a key player in the prevention aspect,” said Dr. Portia Brandt, Muncy School District superintendent, during a small-group period at Friday’s task force meeting.

For those working in education, many said the threat of eventual heroin addiction is sitting in almost every home – prescription drugs.

Many educators stated that it’s easy for anyone, especially youth, to go into the medicine cabinet of any home and take a small amount of pills without anyone noticing.

Geoffrey Arthur, executive director of Valley Prevention Services, explained that this is even easier to do if the medication was prescribed years earlier and the patient no longer uses it. And with prescription drug abuse serving as a gateway to heroin. Christina Herman, director of student services and career development at Loyalsock Township School District, said it’s important more than ever to get ahead of the problem. Robert Grantier, Loyalsock Township School District, added that the cheap cost of heroin compared to illegally purchasing prescription drugs also makes it attractive.

But education of the dangers of heroin use must reach further than just the youth, community members said. It must be received by every resident, regardless of background.

“It’s not a casual thing we are talking about,” said Jim Maiolo, a community member. “It’s every ethnic group. It’s every age group.”

During a large group discussion, Brandt added that it’s important to make sure everyone knows it can happen anywhere and to anyone.

“‘It won’t happen to me’ is an attitude we need to (stop) right away,” she said.

In order to get the message out into the public, many suggested alternative venues, such as high school athletic events and movie theaters. As Brandt explained, more people will attend a high school football game than an open house.

They suggested public announcements talking about the dangers of heroin during such events.

Another suggestion was to allow families of heroin addicts and former addicts to tell their story.

“Those type of events are where you really put a face on (the problem),” commented Charley Hall, district administrator for state Rep. Garth Everett’s office.

The group said it will look at all avenues to get the message out into the public.

“I think we have to hit hard with the message (of the dangers). Kids don’t know. Parents don’t know,” Herman said.