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Overdose death rate rises

The most recent Joint Intelligence Report, The Opioid Threat in Pennsylvania, compiled by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Philadelphia Division included sobering statistics for both the county and the state.

The findings show 5,456 Pennsylvanians died of drug-related overdoses in 2017, a rate of 43 deaths per 100,000. This rate far exceeds the national average of 22 per 100,000 for 2017.

“We don’t necessarily hear about all of the overdose deaths. As far as accurate data, it varies from coroner to coroner as to what they attribute as an overdose death,” said Mike Hannon, executive director of the Juniata Tri-County Drug and Alcohol Commission. “The number of people we are seeing has increased by 65 percent, and comparing data from 2016-2017, that’s a significant increase. The problem doesn’t appear to be slowing down.”

According to the report, 25 Huntingdon County residents died from drug-related overdoses in 2017. Three of the individuals were under the age of 24, 12 were between the ages of 25 and 44, nine were between 45 and 64 and one was over 65. A total of 21 were male and four were female.

In both rural and urban areas, fentanyl became the most commonly identified drug category found in toxicology reports from across the state, with heroin as the second most common. Fentanyl was found to be the leading cause of overdose death.

Within Huntingdon County, fentanyl was present in nearly 90 percent of overdose deaths in 2017, up from 20 percent just two years ago. Heroin was found in just over 20 percent of the cases. Other drugs found include cocaine, benzodiazapines, prescription opioids, ethanol (alcohol), FRSs (fentanyl-related substances) and other illicit substances.

“The heroin with the fentanyl is a lot more potent, so that is what is causing a lot more of the deaths,” Hannon said. “Carfentanyl is the elephant tranquilizer that we are seeing a lot more of as well. Police have been in danger when they come in contact with it.”

Huntingdon County’s drug-related overdose death rate is currently ranked 34th out of the state’s 67 counties. By contrast, the county was ranked 56th in 2016 and 52nd in 2015. Over a three-year period, the rate of drug-related overdose deaths in Huntingdon County has risen 160 percent.

“Accurate data collection from an overdose perspective can be a challenge,” he said. “With our office, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of those seeking treatment, so that would correlate with the number of overdoses happening.”

The report also collected data from those who use drugs and those who provide treatment, which indicated that users typically experience multiple overdoses over the course of their drug use. Those interviewed also shared that naloxone (also known as Narcan) has saved many lives.

“We distribute quite a bit of Narcan throughout Huntingdon County. We are the centralized coordinating entity for distribution. Only one police department, Mount Union, in the three counties we serve currently does not have it,” said Hannon. “There are no ill effects from having it. It’s good to have in the hands of those who need it. I suspect the availability of naloxone has probably helped keep the overdose death rate down.”

Hannon emphasized that assistance is available for those struggling with substance abuse.

“There is assistance out there,” he said. “People need to be aware of what resources are available.”

For more information on those resources, contact the Juniata Tri-County Drug and Alcohol Commission at (888)242-1446 or Mainstream Counseling at 643-1114.

Plan reviewed at public meeting

Local stakeholders were given the opportunity to weigh in on the revision of the Rothrock State Forest Resource Management Plan during a public meeting Thursday evening at the Shavers Creek Community Building.

State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) staff from both the district and state officers were on hand to answer questions and provide additional information on the management plan.

“We’re here to discuss the district’s forest management plan,” said Mark Potter, Rothrock District forester, who then provided an overview of the Bureau of Forestry’s mission. “We are going to run through the Rothrock State Forest Resource Management Plan outline and provide an overview of how we are set up and what Rothrock has to offer.”

Each of the DCNR’s 24 districts is responsible for writing a resource management plan to provide a framework for staff to approach the work and to make management decisions as well as to communicate to stakeholders how the forest is being managed. Rothrock State Forest’s management plan was written in 2003 and updated in 2007.

“Penns Woods is the Bureau of Forestry’s strategic plan, which lays out our mission which is to ensure the long-term health, viability and productivity of the Commonwealth’s forests and to conserve native wild plants,” Potter said. “Penns Woods also sets forth policies for state forests management which include managing forests on sound ecosystem management, retaining wild character, maintaining biodiversity, while providing various values and resources.”

Building upon the framework of the statewide management plan, the district plan looks at the characteristics and unique management needs of the local area.

“In order to implement our mission on the ground, we have delineated 191 Landscape Management Units (LMUs) across the state. This was done in 2017,” he said. “Nine of these Landscape Management Units are found in the Rothrock State Forest. They serve as the fundamental planning unit for ecosystem management and therefore the building blocks of our resource management plan.”

The LMUs within the Rothrock State Forest are Bear Meadows, Stony Point, Brush Ridge, Jacks Mountain, Stone Creek Valley, Martins Gap, Raystown Valley, Great Trough Creek and Lock Valley.

“Our LMUs have quite a range in acreage, the smallest is 21,112 acres at Lock Valley outside of Shade Gap and the largest Landscape Management Unit is 103,933 acres and that consists of the Raystown Valley, which also incorporates state Game Lands and the Raystown Lake project,” said Potter.

The district’s plan contains district-wide content and a series of individualized LMU plans with a variety of goals provided in each level of the plan.

“The goals for the LMUs are specific to that particular Landscape Management Unit,” he said. “Keep in mind the goals from the 2016 state forest resource plan apply across all of the state forest land, but these goals set plans at the local level.”

Potter reviewed the goals of the plan with those in attendance which included expanding partnerships with non-government agencies, continued work toward fire protection and prevention, enforcing laws and educating the public regarding careless use of fire, assisting wood industries and forest land owners in growing and utilizing materials from the state’s forests, continuing to gather and distribute information on the forest situation and proposing solutions to the tax strain on forest land that promotes cutting and abandonment of forests.

A draft of the Rothrock State Forest Resource Management Plan can be viewed at Comments may be submitted via mail, email at, by phone at 643-2340 or by online survey at

Smithfield Twp. property to be demolished

A building that was home to a longtime Smithfield Township dry cleaning business is expected to be torn down in the near future to make way for a produce stand.

The Buck’s Laundry property at 101 Juniata Ave. was purchased in May by John and Miriam Wengerd of Tyrone.

The building was previously owned by Robert and Jane Mills, who had operated the laundry and dry cleaning business from 1967 until their retirement in November 2015.

The Mills’ son, Kevin, worked for the family’s business for 12 years, and helped handle the sale of the property.

“I was very sad to drive by the other day and see the building empty and the doors and windows torn out,” said Mills. “I had asked Mr. Wengerd what he was going to do with the property and he said he was going to level it, have a blank lot and then possibly set up a fresh fruit and vegetable stand on it.”

Mills said all the doors and windows have been removed from the building and all of the utilities have been disconnected.

Smithfield Township code enforcement officer Ed Habbershon said Wengerd has not yet secured permits to demolish the building.

“There are working and going through the process to get the permits they need to tear down the building,” he said, “but communication issues have slowed down things. We were in (the property) and had some asbestos removed, but other than that, from what the new owner has told me, he plans to tear down the building and selling produce from the empty lot. He has no plans of building or adding any other structure to the lot.

Mills explained he had high hopes another business would occupy the structure.

Buck’s Laundry and Dry Cleaning Inc. first opened its doors in 1948 by Harry “Buck” Mills.

The Wengerds were unavailable for comment.

Colder weather prompts rain, flurries

Temperatures may be cold enough this weekend to see some flurries in the forecast.

According to Carl Ericsson, meteorologist with, said flurries may be in the forecast tonight into Saturday morning.

“The best chance for seeing some flurries late Friday night into Saturday morning,” he said. Before that, a steady, soaking will come through, then behind that, there will be colder air and gusty winds. It will feel even colder than the actual temperature.”

With gusty winds and leaves falling off of trees, it could create some potential issues for drivers, especially when nighttime temperatures will be in the 20s.

It’s always a possibility,” he said. “It’s not something we’ve seen yet, but as we get back into the cold season, it’s something to look for.”

This weekend, the temperatures will be in the high 30s close to 40 degrees, but it will feel much colder.

“It will feel more like it’s in the 20s much of the day with the wind factored in Saturday,” he said.

Ericsson noted this is the coldest shot of air that’s come into the county thus far this fall.

“We had a very warm September and October, warm, but we did have a cool shot in late October with highs in the mid-40s,” he said. “This would be the coldest air coming this weekend.”

The cooler weather is expected to stay.

“It will be locked in for a few days,” said Ericsson. “Sunday will be another chilly day, but there will be a lot less wind.”

Ericsson also noted there’s another chance for a developing storm for the early part of next week.

“We have to keep an eye on a developing storm on the coast,” he said. “There’s a chance there could be rain mixing with wet snow Monday night into Tuesday, but it may be a case where it’s a chilly rain, but if the cold air and tracks farther east, it could change into snow Tuesday.

“It looks like with the opportunity with some chilly air coming out of Canada, the colder air be with us next week,” Ericsson added.

The chances of temperatures getting back into the 60s and close to 70 degrees may be at an end though.

“As we get into the middle and latter part of the month, however, we get some of these milder surges coming up, the real warmth, that may be it with temps in the upper 60s,” he said. “If we do see temperature surges, we may go back into the 50s.”

Ericsson said fall is a typical time with yo-yo temperatures.

“You have the lingering effects of summer trying to hang on, while winter is trying to come in,” he said. “That results in wild swings in temperatures as we transition from one season to another.”

Keith Srakocic 

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) celebrates a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

911 upgrade set to go live

After years of work, the county’s upgraded 911 system is set to go live at 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 11.

The news was shared Thursday during the monthly meeting of the county’s 911 policy board.

The occasion will be marked by a press conference at the same time at the 911 center inside the Huntingdon Borough Building.

Preparing for Nov. 15, policy board members discussed some final details with the project during Thursday’s meeting.

Sid McConahy with Mission Critical Partners of State College told the board the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has sent the final land lease agreement for the land and tower on Pine Grove Mountain to the county for signatures.

“This includes a performance guarantee of $10,000 if any damage occurs at the site, and it also includes a copy of insurance,” he said. “This will become an agenda item for the commissioners to approve at a meeting.”

Additionally, McConahy said he was also finalizing some things for the $1 million from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program that was received in September.

“There are things we have to go over, some terms with the state, but this is also something that will have to be adopted as a resolution at a regular commissioners’ meeting,” he said.

Jeff MacAlarney of ComPros said all of the old equipment has been removed at the tower sites, and 911 director Chris Stevens said that includes the towers leased from SBA for the old 911 system.

Because the equipment has been removed, added Stevens, they no longer have to make payments of over $3,000 per month to lease the old towers.

Stevens also added that county radios are currently in use with the new system, and he noted that Mount Union Police Department is waiting for a couple of new radios for the system.

Overall, everyone has switched to the new system, and they’ve been hearing about how well it’s working.

“I think everyone is pleased with the new system,” said commissioner Jeff Thomas. “I’ve heard for seven years from companies in outlying areas not being able to communicate.”

Stevens said now they’re working on making sure neighboring fire companies in other counties are assigned IDs through the new system

Saxton veterans to host Bedford Co. parade

The Captain Phillips Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4129 of Saxton will host the 2018 Bedford County Veterans Day parade tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 10.

The parade lineup will take place at 9 a.m., followed by the start of the parade at 10 a.m. Parade floats will form along 16th Street and proceed to Route 913 below Stoudnour Petroleum.

Once lined up, floats will proceed from Stoudnour Petroleum along Main Street (Route 913) where participating marching units will join the line of parade. The entire parade will continue to proceed along Main Street; turn onto Sixth Street, then to Spring Street and onto Eighth Street, where it will conclude at the Saxton Fire Hall.

Following the parade, a Veterans Day program will be held. Serving as guest speaker is Sigrid Andrew, director of the James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center in Altoona.

Andrew was named director of the James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Altoona in October 2017. As director, Andrew manages an annual budget of approximately $113 million, more than 800 employees and five community-based outpatient clinics throughout a 14-county catchment area.

The health care system serves approximately 26,500 veterans and provides more than 236,000 outpatient visits per year.

Prior to her current appointment, she served as the associate director for operations at the Hampton VA Medical Center, a level 1C complexity hospital. Due to the area being a host to multiple DoD facilities, Andrew assisted with the management and operations of a VAMC that provided services to one of the largest veteran populations within the U.S.

Since beginning her career with the VA in 1992, Andrew has held various positions throughout nursing and health care management. She served as the chief nurse for geriatrics and extended care, the acting director of patient safety and risk management and as the acting executive assistant to the director of the Maryland VA Health Care System in 2010.

Additionally, she served as a nurse manager and as the acting associate director for operations at the Martinsburg, VAMC in West Virginia.

A native of Maryland, Andrew holds a master of science degree in health care administration from the University of Maryland University College, Adelphi, Maryland, and a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Wilmington University, New Castle, Delaware. Andrew is also a graduate of the VHA Health Care Leadership Development Program, Class of 2014.

The Rev. Patty Wise will give the invocation and benediction. The Tussey Mountain High School choir, under the direction of Sara Johnson, will perform the national anthem.

Members of the Saxton Volunteer Fire Co. will serve a swiss steak and turkey meal at the conclusion of the program.