First Posted: 5/14/2008
Heroin abuse is a serious problem in the Abington Heights School District. To be clear, there has not been an incident in the last four years where drug dog searches and the vigilance of our staff have uncovered drugs in our schools. While drugs are difficult to find in our buildings, substance abuse is painfully prevalent among our students. It would be an international news event if 18 students contracted a potentially terminal disease because of some contaminant in one of our school buildings. While the air quality in our buildings is fine, 18 of our students, with the support of caring families, have entered treatment facilities because of the deadly scourge of drug addiction during this school year. When the topic of heroin comes up, we are often asked if the perceived affluence of our school community makes the problem more severe. People are surprised to learn that heroin is cheap, with a dose costing as little as $5. We know that all drug addictions can be deadly and that heroin addiction is particularly vicious. The Abington Heights School District community is being robbed of the full potential of its young people. Since some families have suffered the catastrophic loss of their children, our entire community is saddened. While we can never put these losses behind us, we can learn from them. It is together, as a community, that we must respond to the tragedy of substance abuse and addiction. Our greatest weapons against despair are information and awareness. On April 30, 2008, a community summit was convened at Abington Heights High School. Hundreds of parents came to interact with a panel of leading experts from the many agencies and institutions that exist to combat abuse and addiction. Speaking first was Lackawanna County Judge Michael Barasse, whose words brought our attention into sharp focus. On one out of every ten days, he informed us, a person in Lackawanna County dies from an overdose. An Abington Heights senior who lost his older sister to a heroin overdose earlier this year spoke next, offering a glimpse of the devastating effects of heroin on the families of those who suffer addiction. Also on the panel were regional police chiefs, a physician and professor from Marywood University, two Lackawanna County assistant district attorneys, our district magistrate, a representative from the Lackawanna County Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, a recovering heroin addict, and representatives from drug treatment facilities. Each individual presented powerfully important information from his/her particular area of expertise. The common message was as chilling as it was unmistakable: The problem posed by the ready availability of heroin in our communities is immense. It is equally clear, however, that a coordinated community response is our best hope. There are good people who can and do help individuals and families who find themselves struggling with the darkness of addiction. There is no conclusion to this struggle. There is no final word. There is, however, help available to those in need. The following resources are offered to assist all who have an interest in this issue. For information: Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services (DATS) 961-1797 Lackawanna County Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse 963-6820 Marworth Rehabilitation Center 563-1112 Ext 301 Clearbrook Rehabilitation Center 823-1171 Mental Heath Scranton Counseling Center 348-6100 Tri-County Mental Health 282-1732.