S. ABINGTON TWP. — A roach clip that looks like a regular marker. A digital scale that looks like a CD case.
There are countless ways in which people disguise drug paraphernalia, and there are countless ways in which they hide their drug addictions, even from those closest to them, according to South Abington Township Police Chief Robert Gerrity, who said the police department is working to spread awareness of these topics.
The department, along with township officials, is sponsoring two free Heroin Hits Home presentations, the first of which is open to the public and scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, April 24 at the Ramada Clarks Summit. The second will be presented to the students at Abington Heights High School on May 22. District Attorney Shane Scanlon will speak at both, discussing the local heroin and opioid crisis, along with another guest, who will share a personal life story.
Drug abuse is on the rise nationwide, but as the presentation’s title suggests, it is close to home, as well.
“It is also here in the Abingtons, and we want to make sure people are aware of that,” said township police Sgt. Tom Ksiazek. “And it’s not just a police department problem or a school district problem; it’s a community problem.”
“We want to get the message out there,” added Gerrity. “We can’t turn our heads to this. There are people dying.”
The officers said since February of this year, there were two fatal overdoses in the municipality, one by a 19-year-old and the other an older adult.
On a recent Thursday evening alone, police made two drug-related arrests in the township, one for possession of drug paraphernalia and the other a DUI.
Since the first of the year, the department has had 23 drug arrests, including four incidents with methamphetamine. Other substances they found in these arrests include marijuana, prescription medications and heroin.
“That’s alarming,” Gerrity said. “For a long time, it seems we didn’t encounter that here. But as of late, we’re starting to encounter methamphetamine. And we knew it was a matter of time before it got here, but it’s here. It’s like the whole thing is snowballing.”
The officers clarified they don’t want to start a panic, but want to raise awareness of these situations and how to prevent them.
“We’re not trying to scare people,” said Ksiazek. “We’re telling them, ‘This is here.’ …When it comes down to it, parents have to wake up.”
Although anyone is welcome and encouraged to attend, the presentation is especially targeted toward parents of school-age children. Ksiazek pointed out “drugs don’t discriminate” and the nationwide “epidemic” is not confined to any one age group. The township police have even dealt with occasional incidents involving middle school students.
Gerrity said one thing he hopes the presentation will help people understand is parents’ and grandparents’ medicine cabinets are the biggest sources for drug abuse. But parents are often the last people to realize what’s going on.
Township Manager David O’Neill, who attended a previous Heroin Hits Home event at another location, said this is part of what’s covered in the presentation.
“There’s a lot of indicators out there of somebody who’s in trouble, and sometimes adults just don’t want to see them,” he said.
“Or they aren’t aware of some of the indications,” Gerrity added. “A lot of times, parents will just think it’s maybe adolescent behavior or ‘right of passage’ but it’s not. It’s something much more dark than that.”
The police chief said 10 years ago the current frequency of drug-related incidents was “unheard of” and there has been a steady rise nationally, especially in prescription abuse over the last five years go. He believes one reason for this is the increase in technology. People can get any type of information they want – helpful or harmful – by simply “asking Siri.”
More information about the Heroin Hits Home campaign and drug abuse in Lackawanna County can be found online at heroinhitshome.com.
Reach Elizabeth Baumeister at 570-704-3943 or on Twitter @AbingtonJournal.