Center for Rural Pennsylvania announces hearings on Heroin use

May 29, 2014
State Senator Gene Yaw

State Senator Gene Yaw (R-23), Chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania's Board of Directors, has announced three public hearings to be held across Pennsylvania to solicit testimony on the increased use of heroin and other opioids. Information from the hearings will be used to develop legislative policies that may help to curb the use of these dangerous narcotics impacting rural Pennsylvania.

The first hearing will take place on Wednesday, July 9, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Walnut Conference Room, Williamsport Regional Medical Center, 700 High Street, Williamsport, and will seek testimony from judicial, law enforcement, healthcare and education professionals.

"Right now we have a public health crisis facing rural Pennsylvania," Yaw said. "Although our focus is on heroin use in rural Pennsylvania, we know addiction has no municipal, county, or state boundaries. It is, across the board, a national epidemic impacting residents of every age, race, gender and socioeconomic background."

In Pennsylvania, the number of fatal heroin overdoses has been increasing. According to a 2014 report from the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association, there were 45 reported heroin deaths in 2009 and 124 reported heroin deaths by mid-2013.

"I do not believe that simply locking people behind bars is the answer. We need to do more. These hearings will identify what we need to be doing as state officials," Yaw added. "The primary question to be answered is what can the State Legislature do to help the fight?"

Fred Brason, CEO of Project Lazarus, will offer testimony at the Williamsport hearing on what rural communities and state government can do to respond to substance abuse and drug overdose issues. Project Lazarus is a nonprofit public health organization that was established in 2008 to respond to high drug overdose death rates in Wilkes County, North Carolina.

The remaining two public hearings have been scheduled for Tuesday, July 22 in Berks County and Tuesday, August 19 in Clarion County.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania is a bipartisan, bicameral legislative research agency of the General Assembly.

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