Heroin is more readily available in rural Pennsylvania than a bottle of wine, and is cheaper than a six pack of beer, according to a new report.
State Senator Gene Yaw, the Republican chairman for the Centre for Rural Pennsylvania which published the report, said a small packet of heroin costs between $5 and $10 and offers a five-hour high.
The new findings are based on evidence submitted in hearings across the north eastern state. According to the document, there were 22.6 fatal heroin overdoses per 100,000 population in Cambria County in central Pennsylvania - the highest in the whole state.
The report urged for the state to legislate on the problem, suggesting it should be made easier to prosecute dealers whose customers die of overdoses, and a “Good Samaritan” law should be introduced to assure that people who seek help for overdose victims will not face criminal charges.
However, putting more addicts in jail would not solve the problem, the report said.
While Yaw suggested that one specific factor could not be blamed for Cambria County’s high drug death rate, state representative Bryan Barbin, a Democrat, pointed to relatively nearby heroin distribution centres like Baltimore.
Barbin added that the Cambria County city of Johnstown is easily accessible from Baltimore, and dealing heroin is an attractive career option for those with few economic prospects - especially those with drug crime records.
State Representative Richard Marabito, a Democrat, said Pennsylvania has about 760,000 residents with addiction problems, but that only about 52,000 are receiving treatment. Only one in eight addicts can be helped with existing state resources, the report said.
The problem is not only affecting Pennsylvania. Governor Peter Shumlin said rural parts of his state of Vermont were experiencing a “full-blown heroin crisis,” while the overdose rate in New York City has surged as well, especially in the wealthiest neighborhoods.
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content