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PA drug charges lawyer discusses overdose epidemic

One of my main duties as a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney is to help people who have been arrested on drug charges. I enjoy helping people in these situations, especially people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time and really don’t deserve the potential sentence an unforgiving judge may set before them. However, I also understand the danger of drugs, and my hope is that those I defend will never put themselves in a position where drugs can hurt them. Recently, a report came out about Pennsylvania-related drug deaths. Last year, there were 2489 drug-related deaths in PA, according to the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association (PSCA). That means at least seven people die each day in PA from a drug overdose. Here in Western PA, there were 530 deaths. That’s nearly 23 per 100,000 people. Among Western PA counties, Allegheny County had the most deaths with 303. Westmoreland County had 87 deaths. Cambria County had 37 deaths. Washington and Butler Counties had 33 deaths. Armstrong County had 17 deaths. And Indiana and Greene Counties each had 10 deaths. According to one state representative, it is “a terrifying problem facing Pennsylvania,” and that it mostly stems from the “heroin crisis threatening this state.” In some counties, the amount of deaths rose 20% compared to 2013. If these numbers sound jaw-droppingly tragic to you, consider this. Most lawmakers say that these numbers are “dramatically understated.” This is because there were thirteen counties that didn’t report numbers to the PSCA. Four of those counties-Beaver, Lawrence, Somerset, and Fayette-are in Western Pennsylvania. Most of the deaths are heroin- or opiate-related, accounting for approximately 50% of all Pennsylvania drug deaths. One expert says it is not even known how many people overdose and survive, arguing those number could triple the death toll. In York County alone, heroin deaths tripled and drug overdoses doubled from 2013 to 2014. Addressing this serious issue requires law enforcement, education initiatives, treatment programs, and appropriate funding. There may soon be legislation to provide funding for naloxone, or Narcan, which is a drug used to stop heroin and opiate overdose victims from dying. York County officers currently use Narcan and New Jersey allows all law enforcement and emergency medical technicians to use Narcan on overdose victims. Here in Pennsylvania, we have some of the strictest drug laws of any state in the country. This makes my job difficult at times, but it also makes me realize that after learning about overdose deaths, police officers, state programs, and rehab clinics must receive more funding to help deter people from overdosing. If you have questions about drug charges, please call The Law Offices of Gary Gerson today at 412-219-6875 for a free preliminary consultation.

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