WAYMART - The Wayne County Heroin Prevention Task Force, a grassroots citizens' group formed last year, continues to grow.
An overflow crowd packed a room at the Gravity Inn on Thursday night to discuss the "serious problem" of heroin and painkiller abuse.
The group has been holding public meetings at various locations throughout the county.
Sue Frisch, one of the core members of the group, said the meetings are important because attendees have been educating themselves.
The group was formed via Facebook by Gerald Margraf.
Addiction is a "horrible, horrible, nightmarish thing families deal with," said Jack Heinicke, a representative of Honesdale Family Support Group on Fair Avenue.
He stressed that addiction doesn't just impact the person abusing the drug, but the entire family.
Heinicke, a recovering addict himself, said support groups are vital in helping drug abusers. Left to their own devices, addicts typically relapse, he said.
District Attorney Janine Edwards said that years ago marijuana was the drug of choice, but it was replaced by pain pills. Addiction to pain pills often leads to heroin abuse.
The prosecutor said parents should not hesitate to talk with their children about the dangers of pills and heroin.
Frisch noted how peddlers often stamp the heroin packages with pictures of cartoon characters to make the drug attractive to young people.
Edwards said that many times the highly-addictive drug fentanyl is mixed with heroin, which can cause an immediate overdose and possibly death.
The district attorney said there are steps that can be taken to combat heroin and pill abuse.
Education is "definitely important," Edwards said.
The Wayne County Drug Task Force - a law-enforcement agency separate from the heroin prevention task force - is expanding, said the prosecutor.
Money confiscated in drug raids has allowed the law-enforcement agency to pay for overtime hours and increase its officer count, which is now over 20.
The task force consists of county detectives and state and local police.
Edwards said people need to be good neighbors. If residents see an unfamiliar vehicle parked at a neighbor's house, they should call the neighbor to see if the vehicle has a legitimate reason for being there.
Addicts often steal to pay for drugs. Since 2012 there has been a 500 percent increase in property crime in the county, which is indicative of opioid abuse, Edwards said
The district attorney also said people should discard pills they are not using by bringing them to a drop-box at the county courthouse.
People shouldn't just throw pills in the garbage, because addicts are known to scour landfills for discarded drugs, Edwards said.
Frisch also said loved ones of addicts should keep an eye out for paraphernalia that may seem harmless on the surface.
The items include tin foil, which addicts use to smoke pills or heroin; multiple cellular phones; and pen casings and straws, which abusers use to smoke or snort the drugs.
Also, people can text tips regarding drug activity to 570-391-0657.
The next Heroin Prevention Task Force meeting is March 19 at 7 p.m. at Western Wayne High School in South Canaan.