NBC10 hosted a community forum on heroin addiction on Tuesday, April 12, at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The Community Forum featured White House Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli. The event, titled “Combating the Heroin Epidemic: A Forum for Change,” built upon an intensive investigation and documentary produced by NBC10 featuring reporters Vince Lattanzio, Denise Nakano, and Morgan Zalot. “Generation Addicted,” which aired in March, revealed six months of in-depth investigation into the opioid and heroin epidemic in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties.
A pre-panel session featured United States Attorney Zane Memeger, Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine, and Pennsylvania Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs Gary Tennis, among others. This session focused on combatting the heroin epidemic from a law enforcement perspective, Pennsylvania’s standing order for naloxone, a drug that reverses opioid-induced overdoses, and the fight to overcome the stigma that accompanies the label of “drug addict.”
NBC10 reporter Denise Nakano served as moderator of the panel discussion, which featured a six-person panel. The panel included Director Boticelli; Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disability Services Commissioner Dr. Arthur Evans; South Jersey mother Patty DiRenzo, whose son Sal was lost to a heroin overdose in 2010 and who is now a member of Camden County Heroin Task Force; Bensalem Township’s Public Safety Director Fred Harran; NBC10 reporter Vince Lattanzio; and clinical outreach coordinator from Life of Purpose Treatment Devin Reaves.
While the panelists discussed many important topics surrounding the struggle to fight the heroin epidemic and the valuable work the panelists have contributed to this fight, much of the discussion echoed hurdles that CSE advocates also face. For example, the panelists discussed the stigma surrounding the label of “drug addict,” and the shame that families and communities feel when a loved one is overcome by substance use disorder. In the realm of CSE, many victims also struggle with the stigma that accompanies the term “prostitute,” and are shamed by their communities and society at large for their lifestyle.
The struggle to overcome heroin addiction is very real for many survivors of CSE. Often victims of CSE are addicted to illicit drugs because pimps provide victims with heroin, and then control their access to the substance in order coerce the victims into performing sex acts. Act 105 (2014), Pennsylvania’s comprehensive human trafficking statute, targets this very act. The legislature recognized that pimps use drugs to maintain compliance and control over their victims. Under section 3012(b)(12) of Act 105 (2014), it is illegal to facilitate or control and individual’s access to a controlled substance.
The CSE Institute applauds NBC10’s efforts to shed light on efforts to de-stigmatize substance abuse disorder, and supports the push to provide adequate social and health services to aid those with the disorder.