Detectives, officials speak candidly at heroin forum

Christopher Dornblaser

York City drug detective Bart Seelig spoke to a captive audience at York City Hall on Wednesday night.

He spoke of a man named Hunter, 23, who died of a heroin overdose. Hunter started using heroin after taking oxycodone.

"Repeatedly, he said, 'This isn't me, this is not who I am,'" Seelig recalled.

Hunter had relapsed twice after going in for treatment. He died five months before the birth of his son in 2014.

Hunter Seelig was Bart Seelig's son. The detective recalled telling his son he loved him but hated what he had become.

Seelig's story was shared as part of a candid heroin forum put together by the York City drug detectives. Seelig told those in attendance they have to teach children about the perils of heroin at a young age, preferably around middle school.

"You might as well tell them they're putting a gun to their head, playing Russian roulette with a semi-automatic," Seelig said.

York City Police Detective Andrew Shaffer and his team present an educational forum on heroin, Wednesday, March 22, 2017.  The purpose of the forum was to educate parents and young adults using "real world experiences."  John A. Pavoncello photo

Forum: Seelig said the detectives were educating the community because it is "the right thing to do."

He asked the audience to raise their hands if they have been affected or know someone affected by heroin. A few hands went up.

"You're hard-pressed to go into a room of people and not see somebody raise their hand," he said.

During the forum, Detective First Class Andrew Shaffer, head of the York City drug detectives, showed people how to spot heroin. A heroin bundle was passed around for people to examine.

Shaffer spent time addressing the audience's concerns. From the start, Shaffer dispelled any notion that police are locking up addicts.

York City's police chief says another gang will be subject of federal probe

"What we try to do is get them help," he said, adding that they go after dealers, not users.

Many people asked questions about the heroin crisis in York County. One person asked if potential sentencing for dealers was deterring them.

"I can't really say it is," Shaffer said.

Addicts: The detectives were accompanied by Dr. Matthew Howie, director of the York Opioid Collaborative, who helped shed light on the opioid crisis in York County.

Howie told the audience that 80 percent of heroin users had started by using prescription pills.

"That's a huge number," he said.

He also said that late last year, Pennsylvania enacted the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which allows doctors to see what potentially habit-forming drug a patient might have been prescribed by another doctor.

One member of the audience asked about treatment for addicts.

Howie said it takes about nine to 12 months for an addict to fully recover.

Alyssa Rohrbaugh, co-founder of the York chapter of Not One More, told the man that it's different for each addict.

"It takes a village to make an addict clean," she said.

Howie mentioned that at York Hospital, if an addict agrees to go to the hospital after being saved by naloxone, which reverses the effects of an overdose, then a recovering addict, on-call, is asked to come in and try to speak to them about treatment.

Officials also spoke about fentanyl, an powerful opioid also causing many overdoses. Fentanyl has been getting more popular, and it's harder to detect than heroin.

The audience was warned to be on the lookout for signs of usage, such as missing spoons, needles or the person having a "metallic smell."

One person asked how much heroin it would take to get someone hooked.

Seelig said kids should think any amount of heroin will get them hooked.

"Just cram (the information) down their throat," he said. "They need to get it at an early age."