Saturday, February 22, 2020
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Selinsgrove confronts a drug abuse problem

Hilde Kate Lysiak, a veteran reporter who isn’t yet a high school student, recently interviewed the school superintendent in her hometown of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, reporting for her own Orange Street News about a rise in the use of hard drugs at the local high school.

The Selinsgrove School District, in response to a noticeable rise in local drug abuse problems, has instituted a policy of random drug tests. Ms Lysiak asked Superintendent Chad Cohrs about his support for the new policy. (List of activities covered)

“Anything that we as a school can do to aid students in not using drugs is a good thing,” he was quoted as saying. “The testing will give some students an excuse they can use when faced with pressure to use drugs, to say no. Any student who tests positive for drugs, it will allow us to provide them and their families with resources to help the student.”

In a letter to parents, he wrote, “The Selinsgrove Area has been experiencing a marked increase in drug activity which is impacting our students. … While drug and alcohol usage is not something new, the frequency and types of drugs we are seeing is cause for increased concern. The use of prescription medications such as Xanax, Vicodin, and Oxycodone are on the rise. Use of other street drugs, such as heroin, are also increasing.”

Mirror of a nationwide epidemic

Voxitatis reported what the superintendent in Park City, Utah, is doing to manage a crisis of opioid addiction in her district, and other superintendents and government leaders are sounding an alarm about drug overdose deaths that afflict our nation’s schoolchildren.

President Donald Trump declared an addiction to opioid drugs, of which Oxycodone is one, a national emergency on August 10, the New York Times reported. Mr Trump’s words seem to favor a different look at the drug overdose epidemic in America, one in which we should view addicts as patients who need our assistance instead of criminals who need our courts and prisons.

Whatever lens we use to look at the problem, the Trump administration has turned its focus to doctors who over-prescribe painkillers and other opioids. It would be nice, I suppose, if law enforcement could take a back seat to social workers in bringing about a solution, but that’s not typically how these types of campaigns work.

Indeed, many states have passed new laws that stiffen the penalties for convicted opioid peddlers. But there’s also a concerted, bipartisan effort to reduce opioid addiction in the US.

US Sen Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, said prior to hearing testimony today before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee:

There is not one answer; there are many answers. There is not one problem; there are many problems. And it’s incumbent on us to shine a bright light everywhere we need to shine it to uncover some of the wrongdoing that has occurred and some of the lapses of services and support that we do not have in this country.

In the United States today, too many opioids are prescribed, too many are abused and too many are purchased by the federal government. Medicare Part D spending on commonly abused opioids increased 165 percent between 2006 and 2015. And one out of three Part D recipients received at least one prescription opioid in 2016 at the cost of $4.1 billion. New provisional data from the CDC shows that drug deaths from fentanyl more than doubled from 2015 to 2016, and opioid-related hospitalizations and emergency room visits in Missouri, like so many other states, have doubled in the last decade.

In just one troubling example, the former deputy police chief of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, estimated last summer that 70 percent of the crime his department encounters relates directly to opioids and other illegal drugs. These human costs are not the consequence of some natural disaster sweeping through our communities. This is not a hurricane. This is not a tornado. The opioid epidemic is the direct result of a calculated marketing and sales strategy developed in the 90’s …

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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