Marseglia discusses combating heroin abuse

The most important issue facing Bucks County, according to county commissioner Diane Marseglia, isn't economic development, or the expensive new Justice Center, or any other items regularly discussed at commissioners meetings.

It's heroin abuse.

Bucks County Commissioner Diane Ellis- Marseglia

Marseglia made this case during a speech at a breakfast hosted by the Lower Bucks County Chamber of Commerce Wednesday morning, where each commissioner delivered brief remarks before a large, coffee-sipping audience.

Citing a number of statistics about addiction, as well as personal encounters with friends who died from the drug, Marseglia, a former social worker, described the growth of heroin in Bucks County in stark terms.

More than 60 percent of admissions to county treatment centers relate to heroin and opiates, she said.

Last September, she said, 63 people in Bensalem overdosed on heroin - one died.

And about half of those who die from drugs in Bucks County die from abusing heroin, she said.

"This is of epidemic proportions," Marseglia said, adding that she knows four people who died from heroin abuse - including her daughter's close friend.

Heroin has been in the national news recently, with the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman earlier this month of an apparent heroin overdose, and this week's capture of Joaquin Guzman, the accused head of Mexico's largest cartel, which authorities say is responsible for trafficking a huge amount of heroin into the United States.

But local officials here have been noting its rise and making efforts to combat its growth as well.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan told our reporter Aubrey Whelan over the summer that the drug had made a "strong comeback" in recent years, citing the 52 heroin-related deaths in the county in 2012.

And the General Assembly is acting on at least a half-dozen bills drafted to address the heroin and prescription drug epidemic, according to a story from our Michael Vitez and Amy Worden earlier this month - including one from State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R, Bucks), who has made a number of efforts to combat the rise in prescription drug abuse, which often precedes heroin addiction.

Marseglia urged guests at the crowded breakfast, held at Bucks County Community College, to recognize the problem of drug use, and suggested a number of ways to help - such as donating to treatment centers, or raising awareness about the importance of guidance counselors in schools, who can be the first line of defense in noticing drug use.

The District Attorney's Office also has a tip line, she said, at 215-345-DRUG.

The website for the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission, which has a number of resources and links, is available here.