The sobering truth of heroin epidemic comes into full view

Officials from the health and business community laid out the local economic impact of the heroin and prescription drug addiction epidemic at a recent Pennsylvania Economy League public issues forum.

The news was, well, sobering.

Susquehanna Health officials talked about two people overdosing in a hospital bathroom a few weeks ago.

They talked about people coming into the hospital for treatment of a broken leg and then suffering heroin withdrawal symptoms while there.

In these cases, the hospital will treat the problem but it receives no reimbursement for the costs because that is not the stated reason the person came to the facility. Hospital officials indicated this happens quite regularly.

Vince Matteo, president and CEO of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce, spoke of the effect on businesses from drug addiction.

There are declines in productivity, absenteeism, employee theft, drug testing costs and high employee turnover rates that lead to ever-increasing costs for training new employees.

A business owner on East Third Street in Williamsport spoke of a drastic rise in shoplifting in the past 12 to 18 months, much of it due to drug addiction.

His observations were borne out in three recent robberies. The man charged in all three of the robberies this past week said he had never been in trouble with the law before and blamed heroin addiction as the cause for attempting the robberies.

Heroin and drug addiction in general changes people for the worse and prompts them to do bad things they would not normally do. It destroys individuals, families and businesses and impacts the entire circle of people who know the addicted person.

That’s why we are so quick to applaud the local Heroin Task Force. The network established through the task force is a cross-section of the community attempting to attack the heroin epidemic from every angle.

And that’s the only way to stop this epidemic – attack all facets that are creating the epidemic that threatens our region.

As sobering as the facts were at the discussion forum, they represent the first step in defeating the problem. This entire region needs to accept how serious this problem is and become totally dedicated to defeating it in order to have any hope of stopping the epidemic.