Pennsylvania has the 14th highest drug overdose death rate in the country. Most of those are from prescription drugs. State and local leaders came together Friday to launch a new attack on the war against prescription drug deaths.
“It’s not going to be done through the criminal justice system. That war has been lost for years,” Dauphin County Commissioner George Hartwick said.
Members of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania said it is their responsibility to put up a fight. They formed a special grassroots coalition in the war against prescription drug deaths.
The first step in the plan is to educate youth.
“If we can get them more engaged and understand the problems and the risk to them and they work with their family within the district, I think we can prevent them from going down the path,” said Linda Rosenberg with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
Leaders also want to make it more difficult for people to get their hands on prescription drugs. They want to fund a drug monitoring program that will catch anyone trying to get prescriptions from multiple doctors.
There is also a plan for people who have have unused prescription drugs.
“We place these devices in police departments across the state and then you could drop off those drugs so you get them out of the house, so they’re not available for kids and others to abuse,” said Rosenberg.
“In the first three months that we’ve had drop boxes in our county, we’ve collected 191 pounds of prescription drug opioids that would have otherwise been on the street,” Hartwick said.
If people still manage to abuse prescription drugs, local leaders said addiction treatment is the last defense.
“Absent the treatment we’re going to see an expanding population that continues to explode the state and county budgets,” Hartwick said.
The abuse and misuse of prescription pain killers costs the country more than $50 billion a year.
Officials said prescription drug abuse often leads to heroine use. They said if they can stop the prescription drug abuse they will also help solve the heroin problem.