Officials funnel money toward vexing Pa. heroin problem

May 23, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Some juveniles suffering the symptoms of heroin withdrawal have been so ill coming to court that they have carried basins with them in case they throw up, according to Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom.

Krom, who prosecutes juvenile criminal cases for the county, said Tuesday she has seen teenagers as young as 15 in court for heroin offenses.

She recalled one 17-year-old who was found wandering partially clothed on a winter night near Chambersburg allegedly under the influence of the drug. A few days later he was charged again, this time with bringing heroin to the county from Philadelphia.

"This is a terrifying addiction," Krom said.

On one weekend earlier this month, an Antrim Township man died of a suspected heroin overdose; a Greencastle, Pa., father and son were charged with heroin trafficking; and another Greencastle man was charged with heroin possession after he overdosed, according to Pennsylvania State Police and Greencastle Police.


State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, told the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday that the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development had approved a $50,000 grant to help fund a $158,400 heroin initiative proposed last year by Franklin County District Attorney John F. Nelson.

The state grant will be matched with $30,000 from the county, $30,000 contributed from the municipalities and a $48,400 allotment from the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, Nelson said. About $100,000 of the money will be used to pay the salaries and benefits of two full-time county detectives, he said.

One detective, who had been a member of the Chambersburg Police Department on loan to the county's Drug Task Force for several years, was hired May 1, Nelson said.

Nelson showed two tiny vials of heroin that had been purchased in an investigation of drug trafficking in Greencastle. He said the vials were bought in Baltimore for $10 or $20 each and resold in Greencastle for $50.

Philadelphia is another source of heroin coming into the county, he said.

Krom said some users resell some of the drug in the county, but "On some occasions they're using it all before they get back."

The state grant replaces some of the funding for the Drug Task Force, which had relied on county and municipal contributions and money from the Attorney General's Office since it was founded in 1987. In recent years, however, Nelson said some municipalities have been reluctant to contribute because their officials viewed it as primarily a Chambersburg problem.

All but one of the 22 municipalities contributed to the heroin initiative and some gave more than was requested, Krom said.

Punt said the grant was the largest approved by the Department of Community and Economic Development's Shared Municipal Services program.

Nelson said heroin was not on the list of drugs the task force was concerned with in 1987, but it rapidly became a problem in the late 1990s. The number of heroin addiction cases managed by Franklin County Drug and Alcohol went from three in 1996-97 to 49 the following year and 51 in 1998-99.

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