Tackling the Opioid Epidemic

WILLIAMSPORT -- Speaking with families affected by the opioid crisis, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a National Public Health Emergency. He called for this generation to be the one to end the epidemic.

A few hours earlier, and about 200 miles away, lawmakers and private citizens in Williamsport discussed the same thing.

"It's the biggest health problem that we've had probably in the state," Senator Gene Yaw said.

State Senator Gene Yaw presided over the forum, which was held by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. When asked about Trump's declaration, Yaw believes it is needed. He believes it will bring more recognition to the magnitude of the opioid crisis. Others agree.

"I think it enhances the dialog, not only on a national level but here in Pennsylvania," Steve Shope said.

Steve Shope is the executive director of Project Bald Eagle, which provides information and help on the heroin epidemic in Central Pennsylvania. He believes, on a local level, we need more resources and more funding.

"That's where it's going to make a difference, so I hope that's his intent," Shope said.

Additional funding would be used for education.

"We really need to have a focus on young people so they understand the hazards of drug use," Gary Tuggle said.

"We need to start in elementary school. We need a program for middle school and one for high school," Yaw said.

A public health emergency does not provide additional funding, it relies on existing funds to be redirected. Malcolm Barlow still has some concerns.

"I'm more worried about the future. This opioid epidemic is a real worry for parents and grandparents," Malcolm Barlow said.


  • CS

    I will agree that there needs to be a lot more done, this “crisis” affects many more people than illegal users of drugs. Every time a story like this comes up I cringe. Let me explain from a pain patients point of view.

    I have already had 3 spinal operations. The last being a 360 degree fusion with hardware ( screws and rods ) to stabilize my spine. They had to completely remove a disc, put cages in through my abdomen then finish removing the disc from the back and put the rods and screws in plus harvest bone from my hip for the cages. They will tell you right up front that there is no guarantee in the procedure helping to reduce your pain. One thing I was NEVER told was that if I still had pain, I would not be able to get the support through medicinal or any other means.

    Now I am 4 years post fusion. I have had PT, injections, and tried a cabinet full on anti inflammatory, muscle relaxers and you name what else. The O N L Y thing that helps me are the pain meds. I suffered for over 3 years before I was allowed to have them. I have never used a single illicit drug, I do not drink, I do not smoke and I have done everything possible to cooperate with the doctors in trying to get my pain issues manageable. I am 48 years old and a responsible adult.

    I had to fight, scratch, claw to even get a doctor to listen. As a pain patient, you are treated extremely poorly because of all the publicity that opiods are getting. The second you even mention them, you are labeled as a drug addict. You have pharmacists and insurance companies REFUSING to give them to you even though the doctor approves it. I am closely monitored on the amount and also even drug tested to make sure I do not misuse ( again, even though I have no history ) or that there are any other illegal drugs in my system.

    Everyone wants to just throw a blanket over it and claim it is for the best. They don’t realize that there are human beings out there that have a serious need. People who suffer from a whole host of issues that are medically verifiable. All we are trying to do is have a better quality of life. We don’t want to be treated the same as another who buys and uses other illegal drugs.

    More needs to be done, yes, without a doubt. But the people who are suffering the most, like myself, need to be heard too.

  • III%

    Easy way to end the opioid epidemic…… Don’t use them ! Health warnings about drug use has been around for years and you know the consequences .so sorry no sympathy here

    • banananas

      I do agree with you, but here is the rub- More often than not, the addiction starts at the doctors’ office. My personal experience when I smashed my foot was that they were trying to give me the strongest thing possible because they would get kickbacks from Pharmaceutical companies. I rejected them because I noticed how my once prosperous friends were going straight to rehab after visiting the doctor and losing everything. They goonied a lot of people that were blindsided with different names for what is really just synthesized Opium. Ever hear of a “Chinese Opium Den”? Throw a dart at a map of PA and you’ll probably hit the modern day version. My real worry is that this new administration is doing nothing to cull those “legal” practices that are truly responsible. How much does an inhaler cost today? Are you people sure HRC didn’t win in spirit instead of title? I’m not seeing the needed changes.

      • El Ma

        While it would be a relief to blame the doctors and pharmaceutical companies for the current opioid “crisis,” it’s a waste of time and energy. The addict is ultimately responsible for their addiction.

        Opium and all of its forms have been around since the dawn of man. Why is it that some people cannot do without a drug while others can? Could it be that addictions have more to do with the addict than the substances? Take heroin away from someone and replace it with methadone – as if trading one addiction for another is going to address the issue of addiction?

        “It’s to help with the withdrawal symptoms,” is the standard response to why methadone (and, OTHERS) replace heroin during withdrawal. B.S. Addiction is ugly and the withdrawal experiences should be EQUALLY ugly – a memory that the drug (whatever it might be) is not a “good thing.”

        I believe that doctors who prescribe all manners of medications need to be scrutinized and held accountable, but who’s going to do that, and who’s going to pay for it? WE ARE. The taxpayers pay those invoices for kevlar vests, stakeouts, investigations, technological devices, and weapons.

        Addictions are an industry. When are we all just going to accept this fact and accept that an addict is an addict and is responsible for their own addictions?

      • banananas

        You have won this transfer of knowledge because thankfully I don’t know enough about it except for my personal experiences. Condolences for everybody’s loss in this situation. Do we grab traction and move forward? Do we continue on a path of ‘witness’, or do something more? Do we leave? Do we ignore? I want the best for my community, and there needs to be details covered while words are used.

    • banananas

      Long story short- While we are all infighting and wondering what to do next? Pretty proof positive that Donnie went back to golfing with Bill and being fabulous with Barry. The rest of you need to notice these things and unite. I hate to use redundant terms or sound like a radical sperm stain, but we as the working class are dealing with an nameless dictatorship that would sacrifice anything for just the “idea” of control. I believe there is more to life even for all of it’s pain and scale of measure. There is beauty in it all. There is music in ever blade of grass and every drop of water. Slow down a spell, then get back to this shit. Love what is presented to you when you open your eyes everyday please?

  • banananas

    I’ve read the previous comments, and you are all kind of correct even if you technically disagree. I guess it is a matter of perspective that separates our individual opinions? I’ve also seen the documentaries of how this all got out of hand with doctors writing scripts in FL for people in other states and how there was little to no effort to shut them down to stop the flow or diagnose actual patients in need of relief that would not cause these addictions. Just a money/power game with a lot of talk by politicians when we all know who is really to blame and should be picking up the bill to rebuild and rehabilitate the communities that lost. I have to agree somewhat that certain areas with a big loss to their previous industries have suffered the most, but that is no reason to offer contempt to those that reside there with blanket statements that are based on skewed opinions. Most people’s ancestors came to NEPA from places where politics made it unbearable to live. The cycle continues, so do we do something about it? Or do we sit back and watch until we too have to leave? The world is yours.

  • danjones

    How bout the meth, bath salt and cocaine epidemic. The skook and surrounding areas will always find something else if opioids phase out. Its a depressing , corrupt, oppressed place led by clueless individuals who think Amazon corporate is moving here.

    • Huggy

      Talk at the youth sporting events are still about that Wendy’s thats coming to the Schuylkill Mall parking lot! Or was it a KFC? Lol I bet they think $13.35 at the distribution center is a high paying job too!!

  • Knutey

    Just send all the dope to Schuylkill County. Their biggest accomplishment is drug use. They need that cause high school football is just pathetic or perverted to take so seriously.

    • In a galaxy far far away

      Yeh, the Sherman Hills Housing project is a stellar example of Schuylkill County…..Now wait, isn’t it in Luzerne county? At one point, it was in the news every week for like two years! Yeh, keep believing it is just Schuykill County!

      • Burdy

        Do you live in Ashland, Pottsville, Orwigsburg, or Frackville? Hahahaha wherever, that really sucks to be stuck living in skookle! But hey, we understand you’re fearful of leaving the nest. Skooky Schunts get so awkward outside of that county when they notice how dumb and annoying the rest of the world finds them. LMFAO

      • In a galaxy far far away

        Well Burdy, I actually live on 15+ acres in Schuylkill County of which is paid for…along with my home and 4 vehicles. Do you live in your Mom’s basement or attic (or section 8)? Remember free Obsmacare, food and housing is not leaving the nest..it just makes the taxpayers your Mommy!

      • In a galaxy far far away

        Oh Burdy, I’m going to go out to the creek that runs through my property and sit under the trees back there and enjoy my day off. Yeh, this really sucks living here in the Skook. I will be thinking of you city folk sitting on your front porch on the street and really will be laughing my ass off!

      • Bumper

        How many young boys do you take for “atv rides” on your 15 acres of mountain laurel? When you go to the high school football games do you and the other adults discuss the best butts on the offensive line? Or maybe you’re the closet perv that just looks the other way at the known sex roamers. Okay, go back to your talk of potholes, school boards, and how things aren’t fair to the skookle!

      • Burdy

        Can’t hide that pride! The owner of Stussy’s Auto Ranch loves life in Schunty County! Or perhaps you bought Moes Junk Yard in the Shendo 462 and thats how you got those 4 camaroes. I love it when a schunt makes an idiot out of themselves by playing “look at all I have” to pretend they’re successful and not a backwards social retard that craps puppy bones when leaving home town.

      • banananas

        Burdy- I think it is spelled ‘Camaro’ and from what I’ve seen when I was there, it looks like more Mustang’s than Camaro’s. Didn’t WNEP just do a story on the brave firefighters that travel to work in Washington D.C. weekly from a couple of towns in that county? Your contempt for your neighbors is just as baffling as it is tragic. You are part of the problem.

      • In a galaxy far far away

        Or are you a Sherman Hills resident. No that would be out of your league. Go right to pervert…now Im sure you are in your moms basement! Can see from where you go right to pervert that you are outstanding members of society and you make your Mamma proud. And you certainly convinced me there are POS in any county. Thanks for proving my point!

  • Popo

    That Sammi foundation is a job. The father quit his job and uses the money to make car payments. Wish WNEP would investigate that foundation.

  • Givemeabreak

    Are you saying that the pharmaceutical companies don’t make them addictive to keep customers coming back? That they have no hand in it? The only thing they care about is their bottom line otherwise they would have made pain meds that are not addictive. Now they get to sell the cure too along with running up the hospital bills on top of it. Just one big circle of greed.

    I know people that can’t give up their coffee but you expect people to just quit drugs that were prescribed to them for pain when they are designed to get people hooked.

    I bet you can’t eat just one chip.

    • Darnell

      Human beings have used and abused derivatives of the opium poppy for millennia. How is it suddenly an “epidemic,” and WHY is it the responsibility of the gubmint (a.k.a. MY tax dollars) to fix it?

      Certainly, the pharmaceutical companies make the drugs, but the doctors prescribe them to their patients, and the patients go doctor-shopping FOR doctors that will continue prescribing these medications.

      What do you call someone who graduated at the bottom of their class at medical school? You call them, “Doctor.” Just because a person completes the requirements does not mean that they will be an ethical practitioner….

  • bobgaetano

    I agree that those in need at the present time have to be provided with their necessary medications to overcome their addictions. Unfortunately the recovery rate is poor! My opinion is that we are facing this problem in a totally wrong and irresponsible way. Everything to address this issue is reactionary instead of being proactive. Research tells us addiction is hereditary. The best thing we could do is address and educate at the earliest possible age in school and preschool. Let’s go governor and Sec of Ed!

    • Steve E

      Regardless of treatment (methadone, rehab, 12 step meetings, suboxone, “cold turkey”, etc…) remission rates for addiction are low PERIOD. Some have better outcomes than others and a lot depends on the individual taking personal responsibility for the choices they make to keep themselves drug free once they are detoxed and the physical withdrawal is over. We had all this non-sense with cops going into schools giving speeches about the evils of drugs when I was a kid. It was called DARE and it didn’t do a damn thing other than let us know that we could sniff markers and glue.

  • drugs

    This used to be called THE WAR ON DRUGS. 35 yrs later it’s got a new name. Same lip service, different decade. When are the politicians going to hold their sugar daddy responsible for their part in this?

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