Heroin comes to Franklin County

March 11, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Russell Howard, 20, of Waynesboro, was found dead on Jan. 21, the victim of a drug overdose.

Howard's death was caused by an overdose of heroin and morphine, according to Franklin County Coroner Kenneth L. Peiffer Jr.

A coroner's inquest was held in an attempt to find out Howard got the drugs. The coroner's jury ruled the death accidental and the case remains under investigation by Waynesboro Police and the Franklin County District Attorney's office.

The inquest into the death detailed Howard's drug habits, and several teenagers and young adults testified about their own drug use.


Waynesboro Police Chief Glenn Phenicie said some of the witnesses admitted getting hooked on drugs as early as the sixth grade. Others testified they use heroin.

"This (inquest) brought a lot of it to the surface," Phenicie said.

Howard was just one of a number of Franklin County youths using more drugs and more serious drugs, according to authorities.

"It's progressing worse as far as the types of drugs," Phenicie said.

Although marijuana use has long been a problem in the county, many municipal police officers are discovering an increased use of harder drugs, such as cocaine, crack cocaine, LSD, and heroin.

Drug arrests are becoming increasingly common for municipal police departments.

According to the 1995 Uniform Crime Report, Waynesboro police made seven drug arrests that year.

Last month alone, six drug arrests were made in Waynesboro, Phenicie said.

"A lot of people are so apathetic about it," Phenicie said. "They don't pay attention to it unless it affects them directly or someone close to them."

Chambersburg (Pa.) Police Chief Michael DeFrank said his department is seeing an increase in drug arrests and juvenile drug incidents.

Police are awaiting test results from an arrest last Friday in Chambersburg in which officers confiscated what is believed to be a combination of heroin and cocaine, DeFrank said.

If the substance tests positive for heroin, it will be the first case in Chambersburg, he said.

Marijuana use is "very popular" among drug users in Chambersburg, as is crack cocaine, DeFrank said.

"I know heroin has been on the upswing in the more urban areas in the state," said Jim Rodgers, director of the Franklin/Fulton Drug and Alcohol Program. "But we're starting to see more heroin addiction here."

The county's drug problem isn't going unnoticed. Most police departments are advocates of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program and have drug enforcement plans in place.

Chambersburg Police Department has two programs, including a crime impact team that concentrates on drug arrests, to help combat drug use in the community, DeFrank said.

Waynesboro and Washington Township police often combine forces in drug-related cases, Phenicie said.

Communities also get help from the Franklin County Drug Task Force, made up of officers from state and municipal police departments, who concentrate on drug enforcement.

The task force was established in 1987 as a collaborative effort to fight the county's drug problem, said Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson.

"Before that, there wasn't any concerted drug enforcement activity in the county," Nelson said. "There was no organized countywide effort to combat the problem."

Though drug use in the county is up, Rodgers said his records show a decrease in the number of people searching for help.

He blames this fact on welfare reform and changes in managed care. People without insurance or medical assistance are no longer automatically treated, Rodgers said.

"It's not as easy as it used to be," Rogers said. "People can't just walk in and get the services. There are more rules, laws and policies . . . You can't just walk in and get rehab and help for free."

The county program doesn't handle a lot of adolescents, Rodgers said, adding that the bulk of referrals to treatment centers are for people in their early 20s.

"Not that many adolescents will seek treatment," he said.

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