The Monroe County District Attorneys Office tells us between one and four people die each week as a result of an overdose.
They’re working to save lives and hold people accountable through a task force and a new program.
32-year-old Daniel Wheeler of New Jersey is charged by a federal grand jury with drug distribution resulting in death and conspiring to do the same. He’s facing a at least 20 years behind bars if convicted. Wheeler was charged back in 2020 by Pocono Mountain Regional Police for a heroin overdose.
Monroe County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso says, "Maybe two years before wouldn’t have gotten much attention but they were able to track it to the person who delivered to the victim and in turn with Detective Lippincott involvement in the federal jurisdiction, trace it right to the source and that’s who that fellow is."
That’s just one of a dozen prosecutions brought to the federal authorities with over 20 cases pending right now since the Monroe County District Attorneys Office formed Drug Delivery Resulting in Death Task Force or DDRD in 2019. The task force works hand in hand with the United States Attorneys Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Mancuso says, "It’s acted as a great disincentive for a lot of people who had been delivering in Monroe County and we had heard anecdotally people were looking elsewhere to pedal this poison."
In 2020, Monroe County had 91 overdose deaths. This year to date, there’s over 60. Officials say they can’t take full credit for the drop because they don’t know how many people are being saved by the prevalence of Narcan. But they do believe it’s having an impact.
Mancuso says, "Everybody we lock up who’s distributed, I think we’re saving lives down the line."
Officials are also helping the families of overdose victims to cope. They recently implemented a national program called GRASP or Grief Recovery After A Substance Passing.
Marilyn Smith says, "We know what you’re going through, we also lost a son and that totally totally helped me because I knew someone understood the pain."
That and God is what has helped Stroud Area Regional Police Chaplin Marilyn Smith find strength after losing three children, two to addiction. She and her daughter now find renewed strength at the GRASP meetings the third Thursday of every month at 6PM in Stroudsburg.
Daughter Robin Smith says, "I left there feeling so good that one my story helped someone else in that room and their stories were helping me."
To join the support group or for more information about GRASP, just go to the Monroe County District Attorneys website and look under "services."