More than 600 residents gathered April 1 at Brandywine Heights High School for a meeting to discuss their concerns about heroin overdoses found within the community.
“I am so impressed with how many people are here, I really am,” said Alison Patterson, of Macungie. After Patterson heard of the deaths in the community, she started a Facebook page about the issue to raise awareness.
“We have children that are the ages of these other children that are passing away and that are friends,” said Patterson. “After the last one that passed away, I started a Facebook page so that people could know what is going on in the community. This is a real problem here. We need to have the community deal with this, not just the school.”
She hopes that the people who attended the meeting are aware of how serious the issue is within the community.
“I hope that people are aware of what is going on in the community and try to help people once they see it is a problem,” said Patterson.
“With all the kids we lost already, I wish they could see how important this is and that they have the support of the community,” said Rita Sodano, of Macungie. “It’s a horrible thing when you see your kids go to funeral after funeral, it’s just horrible.”
While impressed with the meeting, Sodano wished they would have addressed more about the warning signs of kids who are abusing heroin.
“I think that we as parents need to know what to look for, or at least tell our kids what to look for in their friends,” Sodano.
Also in attendance were Brandywine Superintendent Andrew Potteiger, Senator Judy Schwank and Cory Trevena from the Caron Foundation, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.
“What brought it about was a lot of emails and correspondences to myself from the community saying ‘hey, can we do anything to make this a better situation?’ and very proactive responses saying ‘what can we do to help?’ and me realizing that we have do something,” said Potteiger.
According to Potteiger, the main purpose of the meeting was to get the community members together who are concerned about heroin use in the local community, to talk about any drug concerns, alcohol concerns and get them out and create a forum for people to voice their concerns, in a collaborative, positive manner.
“There have been a lot of issues with students that have graduated in our community that are having some drug concerns,” said Potteiger.
Sen. Schwank addressed her concerns for the issue. She emphasized that this is not only a community issue, but also an issue found across the nation.
She stated that Pennsylvania is third in the nation in heroin abuse.
“I think there’s an understanding that the school is the unifier in our community,” she said. “This is the place we can at least get to our kids before the problem becomes more and more of an issue for us.”
She stressed the importance that they cannot rely solely on the police, and must start to take action to stop the drug abuse.
“The best efforts at trying to prevent this, at trying to detect it, to get rid of substance abuse will fail, unless we get together and actually take it seriously,” she said. “This problem doesn’t rest on the shoulders of the state police; it doesn’t rest on the shoulders of the district attorneys. Substance abuse councils can’t fix it for us totally.”
After the initial meeting, attendees were divided into smaller groups and taken to classrooms to discuss their concerns further.
Pastor Scott Staub of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran of Topton, decided to attend the meeting, because of his concern, as well as a past history with the drug culture.
“I believe the community and the school together are the only way that the problem can be solved, and it’s not going to be solved just by the police force,” he said.
He hopes that now people will be more aware of signs of drug abuse in these young adults, and that this knowledge will result in fewer deaths due to an overdose.
“Total awareness, no more deaths attributable to drug overdosing and a vast decrease in the amount of illegal drugs that are available on the streets of Topton and the crime and all the problems that come with it,” he said.
Sen. Schwank said, “When you get older, you know what you’ve learned from your own mistakes. But you can’t learn when a mistake kills you. We have to make that message very clear.”