Pa. schools concerned about rising heroin use

March 28, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Pa. schools concerned about rising heroin use

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The use of heroin among teens is on the rise in Franklin County and local educators and police agencies are seeking ways to fight the illegal drug.

In Waynesboro, Schools Superintendent Robert Mesaros took the unusual step of sending letters home to the parents of more than 2,000 Waynesboro Area Senior High School students warning them that heroin use is increasing.

"It's very definitely increasing," said James Rodgers, program specialist for the Franklin/Fulton County Drug and Alcohol Program based in Chambersburg.

Rodgers said his agency reported three cases of heroin use in the fiscal year ending in June 1997. So far this fiscal year more than 30 cases have been reported by case managers.


"We handled three heroin emergencies last week," he said.

Rodgers said most cases involve adolescents.

"The kids are snorting it. It's 90 percent pure," he said.

School officials in Chambersburg are so concerned that they have special meetings to discuss the problem. Representatives from Rodgers' agency sit on the sessions, he said. The school district established a special heroin task force, he said.

Rodgers and several area police officials suspect that the heroin is coming to Franklin County from Philadelphia. A local dealership network has been set up.

"Kids run back and forth between here an Philadelphia," he said.

Rodgers also confirmed suspicions by Waynesboro Police Chief Glenn Phenicie that heroin users from Chambersburg sell the drug in Waynesboro at a profit to support their own habit.

Phenicie said while he has not seen heroin in the borough, he has seen evidence of its use in the small empty single-dose bags it usually comes in.

"Three bags or hits run about $10," Rodgers said.

Jay Heefner, a senior counselor for the Waynesboro Area School District, said he "truly believes" there is heroin in the community. Heefner and Mesaros said they have seen no evidence of heroin in the schools.

Heefner said some students have tried it.

Trooper Ed Asbury, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police in Chambersburg, said heroin use is slowly increasing in the county. He said dealers offer it at low cost or even free to get people to try it. Young people are trying drugs at a younger age and are sticking with it longer, Asbury said.

In his letter to the parents Mesaros said heroin is the drug of choice among teens.

"We have heard that message from police and we have heard it from college students during their breaks and we have heard it from our own students," Mesaros said in his letter.

He told parents that "a number of teenagers have been in drug rehabilitation this year for heroin addiction ... . I am not sending this letter to cause panic, but to inform and to educate the parents of all teenagers."

Mesaros said he sent the letter to warn parents of the potential danger. "We asked ourselves if we should send it and decided to do it as a community service after speaking with the principals."

There are 2,100 students in Waynesboro Area Senior High School, Mesaros said.

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