Heroin epidemic: Duncannon takes community approach amid increase

DUNCANNON, Pa. (WTHM) – A Perry County borough is fighting a dangerous enemy.

“We’re finding needles in our playgrounds, in our parks, on the side of the road,” Duncannon community activist Lisa Landis said. The battle against the heroin epidemic is taking a new turn as residents of the small town fight back.

Noye Park is clearly a family area with relocated gnome homes scattered for kids to find, but residents worry it’s also becoming home to something a little more sinister.

Slowly, the heroin problem is trickling into daily life.

“We need to come together and say that we will not stand for this,” Landis said.

She shared photos recently on her Facebook page, This is Duncannon, that show a needle and two small baggies in Noye Park. Another shows a syringe on the side of the road.

“It’s so easy to get discouraged and want to walk away,” Landis said, “but if we do that, then who’s going to fix the problem?”

And it is a problem. Sunday night, two men in their 40s died from apparent overdoses in a basement on Market Street. The borough’s EMS service says they responded to two more non-fatal ODs in the last week and a half.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of tragedy to get us to this point,” said EMS operations chief Kraig Nace, who’s also president of the borough council.

Nace said financial trouble means Duncannon might soon lose police services provided by Penn Township.

“So that’s probably one of the worst things we can do right now in the midst of this epidemic,” he said, “is reduce the amount of law enforcement.”

State police would take over policing the area in that instance, but Nace worries with so much ground to cover, troopers wouldn’t be able to respond as quickly as a dedicated service.

“It has to be all of us at the table,” Landis said, “taking a stand.”

She planned to take her stand to borough council Tuesday night, asking for a coalition to fight drug abuse. The group, which would be organized under the national Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America organization, would bring together local and regional educators, law enforcement officials, businesses, religious leaders and others to fight the epidemic.

Landis is already using her social media resources to help people report drug sales and use anonymously. Facebook users have been contacting her with names and addresses of both buyers and sellers, which she’s been able to pass along to police.

It’s one of the drawbacks of being from a small town, she said: The fact that everyone knows everyone means some potential tipsters might not call police for fear of retaliation.

But Landis is still hopeful that Duncannon’s size will make the heroin network easier to control.

“Our borough’s 1,500 people,” she said. “We can take a stand and we can do something.”

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