Fatal Drug Overdoses Becoming An Epidemic In W. Pa.

O’HARA TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — It’s a scourge that cuts across all income levels, ages and genders and it’s hitting very hard in many of our middle-class and upper-class communities.

KDKA Investigator Andy Sheehan spoke with one family who wants to turn their tragedy into a positive by warning other parents to the danger signs.

Strolling into their home in an affluent section of O’Hara Township, Ron and Judi Owen seem to live a charmed existence and it was until they learned their 23-year-old daughter Sarah had died of a heroin overdose.

“It’s horrible being told that your child is no longer here, that she is gone,” Judi said.

The death of child is every parent’s worst nightmare, but even as fatal drug overdoses have become more common in the suburbs than in the inner city, there still were those who stayed away from Sarah’s funeral.

“We had friends, we had neighbors that didn’t want to be involved,” Ron said. “They didn’t want to associate with us because we had a daughter who died of a drug overdose like it was something that we did wrong and that has to change.”

“This disease doesn’t discriminate,” Neil Capretto with Gateway Rehabilitation said.

With heroin cheap, powerful and readily available and prescription drug abuse out of control, fatal overdoses have become an epidemic across all of Allegheny County, jumping from 110 to 220 10 years ago and remaining alarmingly high – 236 in 2008, 223 in 2009 and 226 last year.

“Overdose deaths in Allegheny County are the leading cause of accidental death – more than traffic fatalities and homicides put together,” Capretto said.

And yet the problem remains largely hidden from view and ignored.

“This problem is across America — inner-city, suburban, farms, rural areas and unless people admit that this is a problem, we need to deal with it head-on,” Ron said.

Today as they care for Sarah’s daughter, Taylor, they’ve established an organization called R.O.S.E.S. From Sarah which benefits single mothers in recovery as it seeks to help parents recognize addiction and intervene.

“Sitting in the corner over there and crying every day and forgetting her and our daughter and our granddaughter doesn’t fix anything, Ron says, “but if we can change this landscape – it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but I really believe in our lifetime we can make a difference.”

Gateway Rehab
R.O.S.E.S. From Sarah
More Reports By Andy Sheehan

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  • Andy Rooney

    How cool is that? The POst Gazette has the same story so KD can just read it from the paper

  • Mr. W.

    Sad thing is many teachers can determine who the at-risk kids are before the parents do. I personally was told to mind my own business and ten years later, that child I tried to warn them about overdosed.

    • .

      Well Mr. W. at least you did what you thought was right too many parents don’t get involved and that’s where the problem lies, they should have thanked you and did something about it..

  • Sage

    The numbers cited in this article have not jumped much in the last 10 years. Also, is it more of a problem because it happens more frequently in middle and upper class now? You make it sound as it wouldn’t be such a problem if it had contained itself to the class of people that deserve it.


    What needs to be done is to pass legislation that if you are convicted for selling these drugs and it is proven that it resulted in someones death that the person or persons that are responsible receive the DEATH PENALTY PERIOD.
    This will result in a decline for those associated with selling these drugs may possibly think twice before obtaining and selling them and if not they will be ridden from this earth for they are EVIL PEOPLE.

    • James Byrd

      Has the threat of the death penalty stopped people from killing other people?
      How draconian. What about jaywalkers? If convicted = death penalty. Parking ticket? Death penalty. People will continue getting high in some form or another and they will also continue dying. You can’t stop it, you can only hope to rehabilitate and proactively stem the problem before it becomes a problem. Besides, how easy do you think it’s going to be to track down the dealer that sold to the overdosed person? I think the more effective approach is to filter in lethal heroin to the streets and let the dealers distribute it. That way, more junkies die and the result is fewer junkies.

  • Wilbur

    This is simply natures way of thinning the herd by doing society the favor of ridding the druggees. These drug addicts cost taxpayers a fortune in various social cost such as prison, disability and welfare while they live shiftless lives contributing nothing of value to society. The more that overdose means less crime and the cost associated with supporting them and their illegitimate kids.

  • Lauren Owen

    HAHA Wilbur. You’re a joke.

  • A loving mother

    How can you expect to be taken seriously when you start out with equating a parking ticket and jaywalking to an action resulting in death? this is a disease. A terribly ugly disease that can effect wonderful people of all ages and economic levels. My husband and I have both paid taxes for over 38 years and have been our children’s coaches, PTA members, carpooled and everything involved caring parents do yet we have a son with this ugly disease. Luckily he is working a program…that no one else pays for…and is doing well. I pray for him and all addicts everyday along with my other children. Now I will add you and Wilbur to my list. Hopefully you, too, will become a person who is not too quick to judge.

    • A loving Brother and Friend

      I also will pray for you and your son for I have lost a brother and many friends to these predators that provide these drugs.
      One friend was examined by Ceril Wect for his autopsy and it was determined that he was a first time user and knowing this person used drugs I think he had no idea the risk he was taking when he used heroin for the first time.
      His mother refuses to except that this was what caused her sons death and NO ONE was ever caught or convicted for my brother or friends deaths.
      By the way please don’t listen to comments that think that there is no wrong doing here because they are high and their judgement is impaired so anything they say makes no sense and they are in denial and hopefully you will pray for them

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