Panelists confront drug, alcohol addiction at ‘Closing the Gap’

Published by adviser, Author: Haley Barnes - News Editor, Date: April 9, 2015

Three people died from Ebola and it was top news, but three consecutive people have probably died from heroin overdoses in one week in Butler County and it’s not discussed, panelist and executive director of the Gaiser Center Linda Franiewski said on Tuesday night at ‘Closing the Gap.’

‘Closing the Gap’ was an event sponsored by Alcohol and Addictions Coalition and the Rotary Club that featured 11 panelists from Butler County, Pennsylvania and Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania: Butler County Coroner William Young, Slippery Rock emergency medical technician (EMT) Doreen Taggart, Slippery Rock Borough Police Chief Terry Fedokovitz, Medical Director of Clinical Services at SRU Daniel Ferguson, Butler County detective Timothy Fennel, General Manager of Tri-County Industries Jerry Bowser, Slippery Rock Area School District nurse Wilma Oman, Butler County Human Services director Joyce Ainsworth, senior art education major at SRU Rachel Mortimer, Linda Franiewski and director for SRU’s Alcohol and Other Drugs Program Christopher Cubero.

The overall theme of the night was addressing the issue of alcohol addiction, drug addiction and treatment in Butler County. Panelists were to address what is working, what is not working, and what could be done to solve the problems.

Senior art education major and HOPE Peer Educator Rachel Mortimer addressed how she feels as if a lot of students on SRU’s campus take the severity of drugs and alcohol very lightly.

“When I think about it, I feel like they [college students] think ‘it’s what you do in college, it’s what you’re expected to do,’” Mortimer said. “They are constantly reminded by media, movies and society that college is their time to experiment and have fun, but they don’t see the effects that it causes, unless it has impact on them personally.”

Mortimer said that there needs to be more true conversation about drug and alcohol in order to prevent larger issues.

EMT Doreen Taggart said that emergency medical services have used narcan on patients five times within the last two months. Narcan is a drug that EMTs can administer to a patient in need and it will reverse the side effects morphine, oxycodone and heroin. She said that narcan has really severe side effects.

“In the past year, we have actually had seven confirmed heroin overdoses [in Slippery Rock],” Taggart said. “We also saw approximately two years ago where there was a bad dose of marijuana and we believed at that point that it was laced with something, probably heroin.”

“There are students that are applying to be teachers and if you have that on your record, you’ve just wasted your four years of college,” she added. “So we get a lot of tearful people in the ambulance not knowing that they just did marijuana laced with something else and they just realized that it ruined their career.”

According to Franiewski, America holds 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population. 

Butler County Detective Timothy Fennel said that within his 36 years of law enforcement he has seen a lot of heroin.

“Arresting everybody and throwing them in jail does not work,” Fennel said.

He explained the reality of probation in Butler County.

He said that most addicts turn to drugs again after being released from prison. 

“Here’s a little secret about probation, the average probation officer in Butler County has about between 350 to 400 offenders that he has to supervise, so the very best case scenario, he might see them for 15 minutes in his office once a month.”

He said that it is very tough for the probation officer to monitor the drug activity of all of those offenders . He also added that by the time a probation officer discovers one of the offenders has been using, they have already been using for about two or three months. 

Slippery Rock School Area District nurse Wilma Oman said that we need to stop preaching to children that ‘drugs are bad.’ She said that we need to teach children about the consequences of the more severe drugs like heroin.

Joyce Ainsworth, director of Butler County Human Services, explained how state funding for drug and alcohol treatment has decreased nine percent since 2002.

“The good news is that our governor, Governor Wolfe, just released his budget for 2015 to 2016,” she said. “Finally for the first time in over a decade, they are actually promoting an increase for drug and alcohol treatment.”

She said that the budget is proposed to be around $7.3 million, which will be distributed among the state.

President Cheryl Norton said that the best way is to join together for a solution.

“Why not work as a community to address this problem,” she said.

The event concluded with a question and answer forum, that allowed the audience to give feedback.

There are several resources on and off campus for students to use for more information on drug and alcohol addiction. These resources can be found at and


  1. The nonprofit CANDLE, Inc. is pleased to already be working with SRU students on projects to advance the Reality Tour Drug Prevention Program – a parent/child experience that has been in the area for 11 years. Students will finalize plans for a billboard campaign on April 29th. We are pleased to collaborate with all who want to prevent drug abuse. Contact us via


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