Heroin is now the number one drug of choice in Pennsylvania, according to top officials.
Attorney General Kathleen Kane called the commonwealth's problem with heroin “dire.”
Inside the Harrisburg High School auditorium, a panel of state lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee listened to a slew of top officials suggesting ideas and providing information on Pennsylvania's issue with the deadly drug.
Kane testified Pennsylvania has one of the worst records when it comes to heroin abuse.
“It is a dire problem because our children are dying,” she said. “The age of first time users is getting lower.”
Kane was among many to help state lawmakers tackle the issue. Local district attorneys Dave Freed of Cumberland County and Ed Marsico of Dauphin County spoke about the impact on the prosecution side and recidivism of heroin abusers.
Freed also talked about how Harrisburg has become a hub for trafficking heroin.
“We're the keystone of the Keystone State. We have Route 83, 81, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and even Route 15,” he said. “These are major, major transit routes and we have a ton of drugs, ton of contraband coming through here.”
According to a statewide report from the Pennsylvania Association of Coroners, there were 484 heroin-related deaths in the past two years.
Locally, York County ranked fourth in the state with 28 deaths.
Dauphin County reported 18 overdoses; strikingly all were males.
The hardest hit areas were in Montgomery and Allegheny counties with big cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia respectively.
However, as experts noted Thursday and what abc27 has reported several times in the past years, heroin use is rampant in suburban communities.
In June, Derry Township police reported that a 19-year-old died as a result of heroin use, but the Hershey area has not been the only community to be hit by the deadly drug.
Freed explained the heroin is coming to the buyer instead of years past when people traveled to bigger cities to obtain the drug. He surmised heroin has become cheaper, stronger and readily available.
“This is now dealers coming here, putting this out there for profit,” Freed said, “and that's one of the reasons we've had these overdoses.”
Coroners pointed out many that in overdoses, heroin is often laced with other drugs such as fentanyl.
Kane said many of the drugs are being mass produced in Mexico and Afghanistan and are making their way into the United States. She called for action on the federal and state level, asking surrounding states to band together against heroin trafficking.
“We all see this as a problem that we cannot fight alone,” Kane said. “We must fight it together.”