TOWANDA, BRADFORD COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – As communities across northeastern and central Pennsylvania prepare to honor veterans this weekend, Pennsylvania’s Attorney General is also trying to make sure they’re safe.
The opioid epidemic that has killed thousands of people in the region hits the veteran population particularly hard.
Statistics show veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from overdosing on painkillers.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro addressed that issue Friday with veterans while holding round table discussion at American Legion Post 42 in Towanda.
“They’re in denial. They just don’t think they need help and they keep popping the pills I guess,” Murray O’Donell, Commander of American Legion Post 42 said.
AG Shapiro says just talking about the issue helps shatter negative stigma.
“It’s okay to come to a government official. It’s okay to come to a service network like we have here in Bradford County and ask for help!” Shapiro said.
While speaking with veterans in Bradford County, the PA Attorney General also said state lawmakers can help in the opioid fight even more than they already are by imposing a mandatory minimum sentence for people caught dealing fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller, one hundred times more powerful than morphine.
Shapiro was joined Friday by State Senator Gene Yaw who supports the PA Attorney General’s request.
“I think a mandatory minimum would be very effective in that regard!” Senator Gene Yaw, a republican from Lycoming/Bradford counties said.
While some in the corrections system don’t believe mandatory minimum sentences are effective, the Pennsylvania Attorney General disagrees.
He says any drug, thirty times more powerful than heroin, deserves extra attention when it is given out illegally.
“I want to make sure that these drug dealers know there is no place for that kind of poison here in northeastern Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said.
Pennsylvania’s Attorney General also held a similar round table with veterans Friday afternoon in Sullivan County.
His office also donated $64,000 to a group that helps veterans with post traumatic stress disorder in the Laceyville-area.