Heroin and prescription opioid abuse continues to grow across the country and in the Keystone State.
On Thursday, a federal prosecutor announced a way for his office to address the problem.
Bruce Brandler, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, laid out a “district-specific opioid strategy to address the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic.”
“More Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle crashes or homicides,” Brandler said in a statement.
According to the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association, 3,505 people in Pennsylvania died from overdoses in 2015. In Centre County alone, there were 17 overdose deaths.
Brandler laid out a plan to address the problem with a three-pillared approach of prevention, treatment and enforcement.
Prevention would be done through public awareness and education, including “creating a formal multimedia presentation highlighting the dangers and warning signs of opioid abuse and offer tangible solutions.”
Treatment includes coordination of law enforcement groups to “identify individuals most in need of treatment” and channel them toward facilities and providers.
The enforcement arm is more steely.
“Opioid cases, particularly opioid cases resulting in death, will take the highest priority and such cases will be prosecuted aggressively to ensure maximum deterrence,” Brandler said.
Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller agreed with the plan.
“I agree wholeheartedly with these three principles to deal with our heroin problem, and we are already following them,” she said. “People are dying and suffering unnecessarily. We need to take back our community from this scourge, help our addicts and stop the dealers by prosecuting them aggressively.”