Heroin panel educates York County students, parents

Christopher Dornblaser

Despite the looming threat of winter weather and hazardous roads, parents and students, some as young as fifth and sixth grade, came to see a presentation on heroin Monday night at Northern High School.

The school, in partnership with the York County Heroin Task Force and iWILLrecover, hosted a free drug education and awareness program, complete with a full panel of experts from the Heroin Task Force to answer any questions the community had.

Educating youth: York County Coroner Pam Gay said she thought it was good that some of the audience members were younger, as they can learn earlier and perhaps prevent others from using heroin.

"We don't often have kids," she said, adding that while they don't necessarily ask parents to bring their young children, it's good because it shows the parents are concerned.

Northern High School Principal Matt LaBuda said parents with younger kids had asked if they should bring they children to the event.

"If you're going to accompany them, I see nothing wrong with that," he said.

The event started with LaBuda presenting information on heroin, followed by a personal story from Jalinda Leathery, of East Berlin, about her son and his experience with heroin before his overdose death in 2013.

Giving facts: Leathery's son William Wentz overdosed from heroin shortly after he had attended rehab, two weeks shy of his 23rd birthday.

She said she tried many ways to help him. Leathery said she went with her son to many of his appointments, including Narcotics Anonymous meetings, where she was surprised by the age range of people who attended.

"Addiction ... does not discriminate, it's everywhere," she said.

After she spoke of her story, the panel, comprised of eight experts, was welcomed to the stage to answer questions from the audience. Among many facts they gave out were how to spot signs of addiction.

Gay said people should keep an eye out for pinpoint pupils, sleeping at inappropriate times, and stealing and lying.

Chief Deputy Coroner Claude Stabley also said a sign of addiction is syringes.

"One of the telltale signs for us is syringes in the home and they're not diabetic," he said.

Stabley said another reason heroin has become so lethal over the years is that it has become more pure, while the price stayed the same.

"It hasn't really changed much in price, but the potency has gone up significantly," he said, adding that the heroin they have found in recent years is 60 percent to 80 percent pure.

The number of heroin deaths in the county for last year was 65, according to Gay, slightly more than the 2014's 62. She said that number would have been higher had it not been for Narcan, a drug that counteracts overdoses that police in the county now carry with them.

"It would have been so much more without the Narcan," she said.

Continuing education: LaBuda said he hopes to continue educating students on the dangers of heroin, as the problems seem to really happen after high school.

"It won't solve everything, but we can't do nothing," he said.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com.

Northern High School, in partnership with the Heroin Task Force and iWillrecover, taught people about heroin Monday night.