Seen on 6 News
- Experts encourage parents to talk to children about sexual predators
- Everett student makes a difference through her volunteer work
- Local lawmakers pushing to arm teachers in schools
- Local woman shares her story of living with ALS
- Students seeking funds for sports program
- State, schools take lean finely textured beef off menu
- Freebies for military men and women for Veteran's Day
- Family still looking for dogs after fire destroys home
- Johnstown woman to “Pay it Forward” this holiday season
- Released emails show NCAA internal debate over PSU sanctions
- Taylor Swift pulls music from Spotify
- Who is #AlexFromTarget?
- Penalty for prayer irks Florida football player
- Lauren Hill takes the court for college debut
- Death With Dignity Advocate Brittany Maynard Dies
- Woman makes voice heard after tragedy
- Genetic testing helping patients prevent cancer before diagnosis
- Trick-Or-Treat Times
- Report: Students indoor tanning on campus at top universities
- Open forum to discuss Affordable Care Act held in State College
- Nonprofit looking for applicants to receive grants
- Mt. Union Fire Company welcomes home injured firefighter
- Happy Valley Animals in Need searching for fosters
- Train rides offered at Bellefonte Fall Fest
- Red Cross says ‘thank you’
- Dairy Queen data breach impacting stores nationwide
- Wedding technology getting extreme
- Cambria Co. students learn dangers of distracted driving
- Keystone Crossroads project hopes to help future of Altoona
- Bestwick Foundation to host fall charity bike ride
- Benefit planned for victims of Howard fire
- Celebrating 65 years of WJAC-TV: 6 News Technology
- Celebrating 65 years of WJAC-TV: 6 News Specials
- Celebrating 65 years of WJAC-TV: 6 News Talent
- Celebrating 65 years of WJAC-TV: 6 News Archives
- Celebrating 65 years of WJAC-TV: 6 News History
- PSU postseason ban lifted
- Monk walking across America arrives in Centre Co.
- Ritz Theater pays off loan for new projection system
- Community supports Altoona family through funding for new van
- Dairy Queen's Miracle Treat Day a sweet deal
- Somerset Co. fundraiser helps pay for infant's funeral
- Group hopes to help families who lost a child
- Organizers prepare for 2014 Heart and Stroke Walk
- Water therapy teaches Centre Co. puppy to walk
- Wiffle Ball Bonanza builds replica Forbes Field for fundraiser
- Local V.F.W. asking for donations for care packages
- Family pleads for daughter who jumped from car to return home
- Clearfield veterans memorial wall
- New York film company features Bedford teen with inoperable tumor
- Despite rising firework costs, 4th Fest continues, tickets still available
- 4th Fest in need of volunteers
- Meyersdale blaze ruled arson, plagues problems for borough
- Red Knights help toddler severely burned by campfire
- Altoona police searching for bank robbery suspect
- Hundreds support Trooper Brad Wilson with benefit run
- Family of crash victim asking for prayers
- Anchor Marty Radovanic opens up about cancer diagnosis
- Walking in her shoes raises awareness for domestic violence
- Federal CHIP funding set to end in 2015
- Route 22 road improvement plans shown in Blair Co.
- Centre Co. United Way partners with Centre Volunteers in Medicine
- Prescription drug drop-off boxes now in Blair Co.
- 4th Fest officials looking for heroes
- State College Borough considers using crowdfunding
- WEB EXTRA: Johnstown's History
- Therapy dogs a success in Jefferson County
- Rate increases coming to Penelec customers
- City leaders create relief fund for troubled Bosnian city
- Cambria Co. Showcase for Commerce kickoff
- Boalsburg Memorial Day events carry on despite recent vandalism
- Johnstown event featuring downtown businesses, food
- Battling prescription drug trafficking an ongoing effort
- State lawmaker, coroners disagree on proposed organ donation act
- Several area schools score high on state performance profile
- Community sending care packages overseas
- Master plan presented for updates to Teener Field in Ferguson Township
- Facility for overweight children to open in Windber
- RAW INTERVIEW: AG Kathleen Kane talks heroin
- Mother’s Day 5K helps to raise money for homeless mothers
- Man tractoring across America for wounded heroes
- Johnstown not backing down as residents continue to fight pressure testing
- AG Kane: Heroin problem in Johnstown is out of control
- Police following leads, community offering to help after cemetery vandalism
- Specially designed adaptive bike program expands to Cambria County
- Centre Co. PAWS hosts ‘yappy hour'
- Centre Co. cemetery vandalism tops $100K
- Family hosts first Max Deitle 5k
- Jefferson Co. drive-in could close down
- Electronic addiction can negatively impact children under 12
- Underage and undercover: Underage sales investigated
- Prized Shelby Mustang to be auctioned in Centre Co.
- Senior who asks Miss America to prom gets suspension
- Community helps to raise money for baby with rare genetic disorder
- Police officer pretends to be Amish woman
- School stabbing victim speaks out
- One Run for Boston passing through Pennsylvania
- Disabled boy reunited with special bike after it was stolen
- Non-profit helps rebuild home in Cambria Co. after fire
- Woman fighting for domestic violence programs a year after shooting
- RAW VIDEO: Police searching for men who poisoned 1,000 fish
- Area mother pushing survival length of son diagnosed with Duchenne
- Earthquake Monday disrupts a Los Angeles morning show
- Jennertown Speedway opening day
- President Barack Obama on
- Elderly woman charged $1,200 for one time snow removal
- Pa Lawyer's controversial advertisement
- Trooper Wilson T-Shirt order form
- High number of complaints recorded by Pa. officials
- New designation added to PA State license for veterans
- Injured trooper shares his road to recovery
- Reporter plowed by snow
- Students learn dance to raise money for playground
- Heroin: A story of grief and hope
- State looking for owners of unclaimed property
Battling prescription drug trafficking an ongoing effort
By: Jen Johnson
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- It's not a new problem, but one that deserves renewed attention. Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in Pennsylvania, leaving lawmakers and law enforcement to look for new ways to crackdown on pill popping and prescription drug trafficking.
As 6 News found out, residents are helping officials to stay one step ahead of the problem.
State statistics show the number of drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania increased by 89 percent since 1999. Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan told 6 News that that statistics show most people's addiction to pills begin in their own medicine cabinet.
"We lock up our guns because we know they're dangerous," Callihan said. "Yet you can go in any medicine cabinet, in any home, and find prescription medication."
It's those pills leaving medicine cabinets and countertops and ending up in the wrong hands that have officials concerned.
"Some of them are gonna hit the streets. People are gonna be selling them, trying to make money off them," said Cambria County Drug Task Force Detective Kevin Price. "The addiction is going to be worse than it already is."
The addiction to pills, mainly narcotic painkillers, has also led to an alarming connection to crime.
"That's a primary motivator for burglaries, when people know that someone has a medication that's in demand, like OxyContin [and] Percocet. They're becoming a target," said Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins. "Those pills have a street value, whether it be $10, $20, $30 a pill, some even more than that."
Somerset County District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser said a majority of home burglaries can be traced back to pill-related crimes.
"You can relate back nearly 80 percent of the time, when you have a home invasion, a purse snatching, a car theft, that they are looking, or they already have, the information that the person has medications in the home," Lazzari-Strasiser said.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 52 percent of people over the age of 12 have popped pills. More than half of those addicted were freely given the medication from a friend or relative. Painkillers are the most abused.
What's more, in a survey, teenagers said prescription pills are their drug of choice because they're easy to get at home, they believe it's not illegal, and they believe pills are safer than illegal drugs. Price said those kids couldn't be more wrong.
"Our prescription pills and our prescription trafficking go hand in hand with heroin," Price said. "We know when there's a lot of pills on the street, there's less heroin. When there's more heroin, there's fewer pills. They will be linked together forever."
Early indicators show that a simple, statewide program has appeared to be keeping some of those pills out of the wrong hands. Drug drop-off boxes, which are scattered around the area, end up full week after week with unused medication.
"Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, some Percocets, OxyContin, of course, sort of what you read about that people sell on the streets. We are actually seeing those powerful painkillers in these boxes," Price said.
Police and prosecutors told us the drug drop-off boxes are one of the cheapest and most effective ways to get unused medication off the streets.
"You're taking that burden, that temptation, away from somebody in your house." Price said.
The drug drop-off boxes are located in a safe place, usually a police department, and are secure and virtually tamper proof.
The unwanted medication is destroyed in an environmentally friendly way through incineration. Officials said no matter the county, people have deposited hundreds and hundreds of pounds of pills into the boxes.
Officials also said dropping them into the boxes is better than flushing them down a toilet, leading to pollution in waterways.
"I know from the amount that we see and the amount that is not being consumed, somebody is over prescribing," Lazzari-Strasiser said.
Pennsylvania prosecutors are watching pending legislation that would create a prescription drug monitoring program and data base that could alert to practices of over prescribing by physicians, or what's called "doctor shopping" by addicts.
Counties must supply a quarterly report of the weight of what's recovered from each box. At the end of the year, those hard statistics will be scrutinized in Harrisburg. Lazzari-Strasiser hopes the drug drop-off boxes may also bolster legislative change.
"What I think the statistics will do is give us the information to say, 'Why are we throwing all this away?'" Lazzari-Strasiser said. "If it was medically necessary at the time, why is it not being consumed by the patient? These statistics will likely help to support the premise that the medical community needs to reconsider how much prescription meds they're dispensing."
You can only deposit pills into the drug drop-off boxes. No syringes, liquids or insulin pens should be placed inside. Authorities ask anyone to remove the pills from their packaging because it saves time going through the deposits and space in the boxes. For the best results, dump your pills into a Ziploc bag.
Click here to find a drug drop-off location in your community.