Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Depression, alcoholism and drug addiction … “Saving lives is the Answer”

IDrug addictionn June, I learned that a local 20-something year old CHS graduate had committed suicide. Although I did not know the young man personally, I was told that he suffered from depression, drug addiction and was on probation through the courts. Having attended the funeral of his friend, another young man, himself a Conestoga graduate, sent me an email.

Overcome with grief over losing his close friend from high school, and looking for answers, his email read in part,

I’ve been struggling with addiction for 5 years now. I know that people need to get it on their own, but I mean trying to educate them before this happens. If I saw a fellow peer talk about how he/she just started out experimenting with drugs and eventually led to what it led to for me who knows what I would have done differently.

The problem is hard drugs have been normalized in the high school and almost glorified because they don’t see what happens when they are a little older and all of their friends are dying.

We have 15-year-old girls in Conestoga that are shooting heroin! It’s absolute insanity. Something needs to be done; we just lost ANOTHER graduate, one of my best friends, 3 days ago to this stuff.

The young man who sent me this email told me that had sent an email to the T/E School Board asking for their help with the drug problem in the schools.

Last year, Chester County officials released the statistics report on fatal heroin overdoses in the county. Since 1999, the overdose death rate in Chester County has doubled with 24 overdose deaths in 2013, with victims ranging from 21 to 79 years old. Fourteen were men and 10 were women. The report indicated that 18 of the fatal overdoses or approximately seventy-five percent, both heroin and prescription drugs were involved.

When the statistics were released, Chester County DA Tom Hogan stated, “One clear trend from these statistics is that prescription drug abuse is a gateway to a heroin overdose. Heroin does not discriminate. It is a deadly drug that is abused by young and old, poor and rich, white and black. Nobody is safe. There are students in every high school in Chester County who are using heroin, from Conestoga to Coatesville, from Unionville to Oxford.”

In 2014, we learned of the arrest of 11 people involved in the ‘Main Line Take Over Project’, a drug trafficking ring. Two Haverford School graduates were the drug operation kingpins and hired students at main line high schools, including Conestoga, Radnor and Lower Merion as their drug peddlers. Every child is at risk. According to experts, those with risk factors, such as a family history of mental illness or addiction, have a greater chance of becoming addicted.

Alcoholism and drug addiction is a disease. People are suffering from this disease and dying from this disease every day. We really can’t do anything as a society to help those people until we start talking about it.

I received the following statement from T/E School Board Director Liz Mercogliano with a request to add it to Community Matters:

Rescue for Overdose

My name is Liz Mercogliano. I serve as a current T/E school board director. I also have practiced psychiatric nursing since 1984. I am a practicing Realtor and lawyer.

I wanted to share the facts on overdose and/or harm to self or suicide. At T/E, I support giving our students mental and emotional support. Every year we lose a child to suicide or overdose. Overdose can happen in a second with prescription, legal and illegal drugs.

Many students and families are not familiar with the signs and symptoms of psychiatric disease or the fact that everyone has different levels of depressions throughout their lives. As a result, there are accidental overdoses as well as serious unidentified clinical depressions that may lead to suicide.

Please realize depression is treatable and many overdose accidents result in life changing events for the individual. The right thing to do is to help those who need our help. This help includes identifying persons at risk and offering professional help. This is not a small matter in our community. When it happens to you or a loved one, find help. In my mind, EMTs and the ability to reverse the overdose will make our community a better place.

Saving lives is the answer. Provide mental and emotional support all the sick whether it is a traditional medical disease or drug or alcohol disease.


Liz Mercogliano, RN, Esquire
T/E School Board Director

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  1. This post got to me…I talk to a lot of young people who either attend or graduated from Conestoga and it seems that everybody knows somebody who is addicted to heroin…they start drinking, popping mollies and OxyContin then move on to heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to obtain.

    My daughter who graduated in 2013 has already lost several former classmates to drug overdoses…

    “The young man who sent me this email told me that had sent an email to the T/E School Board asking for their help with the drug problem in the schools.”

    Did he receive a reply???

  2. Thank you Pattye and Liz, as an employee, I feel such heartbreak over every loss. Having Chris Herron speak this year was such a positive and productive decision. Thank you for spreading light on this tragic reality.

  3. The loss of any human life is a tragedy especially when something preventable occurs to the young in our society. It is horrible for all involved.

    If I understand Liz correctly, I would not differ in her assessment, but in her remedy. It is my understanding the rate of recidivism in drug treatment is so high the only real cure is prevention. Once the addiction sets in, it is possible to escape but not likely.

    A vigorous early program of the ultimate horrors of drug addiction maybe the only way to turn the tide.

  4. Tredyffrin police arrest 61-yr. old female heroin dealer at her home on Pugh Road, Wayne

    Here’s the police report just released:

    On Tuesday, July 21st, 2015 at 11 AM, The Tredyffrin Twp. Police Department and Chester County Municipal Drug Task Force members descended on a Main Line address to shut down a local heroin dealer. Mrs. Lynne C. Twaddle, 61, of the 800 block of Pugh Rd., was arrested for multiple counts of the Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act (Act 64) for the sales of heroin, a Schedule II drug. The arrest tops off a four month long investigation into the activities of Twaddle in the Wayne section of the Twp. Police were tipped off to illegal distribution of drugs and initiated an undercover investigation, leading to securing approximately 250 baggies of the drug. On at least four prior occasions, police had contact with the dealer at her residence, walking away with the deadly powder each time.

    At the time of the arrest, a search warrant was served and at least eighty more bags of heroin where recovered along with a pistol.

    Twaddle was taken for an arraignment at the Chesterbrook District Court. Magisterial District Judge Analisa Sondergaard presided, setting bail at $ 50,000.00, cash bail. Twaddle was ordered incarcerated at the Chester County Prison in lieu of posting bail. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Friday, July 31st, 2014 at 9 AM, at the Chesterbrook District Court, 500 Chesterbrook Blvd., Wayne. Twaddle was charged with violations of Title 35, Health and Safety for Possession with Intent to Deliver heroin, a ungraded Felony (5 counts), Possession of a Controlled or Counterfeit Substance, an ungraded Misdemeanor (5 counts), Possession with Intent to Deliver Drug Paraphernalia, an ungraded Misdemeanor (5 counts) and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, a Misdemeanor of the 3rd degree (5 counts). Twaddle was also charged with violations of Title 18 under Criminal Use of a Communications Facility, a Felony of the 3rd Degree (4 counts) and Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activity, a Felony of the 1st, Degree ( 1 count).

    “Concern over the impact of opiate drugs on the Mainline has prompted pro-active police investigations such as this one,” stated Detective Sergeant Todd J. Bereda. “We have gone to great lengths to attempt to identify those engaging in distributing pills and heroin and have a zero tolerance approach in this line of enforcement. The most important thing to do is to de-mystify this drug and those that it has touched. Every family has a friend or loved one struggling with an addiction.”

    This shadows the days other activity….the destruction of hundreds of pounds of confiscated and voluntarily turned in prescription drugs. Working with our partners in industry, Tredyffrin Twp. PD eliminated drugs, some of which were opiate based and had until recently been on the shelves of local resident’s medicine cabinets. “The public education process has enabled us to hopefully stop the next overdose by taking the drugs out of potential circulation and the hands of addicts,” Bereda commented.

    Supt. Giaimo related,” We would like to thank our partners at the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, Schuylkill and Phoenixville Police Departments, for their work to help stop Twaddle’s actions. We hope this arrest serves as a wake-up call to the community as to the degree that this addictive substance has begun to permeate our ranks. We hope that this arrest serves as a very strong indicator to all that we are not immune to this national drug problem. One life lost is far too many. “

  5. “Mrs. Lynne C. Twaddle, 61, of the 800 block of Pugh Rd” Public records indicate that she lives at 482 Pugh Road…right across from New Eagle Elementary.

  6. Dear Pattye,
    Thank you for taking on this campaign to help our community take a stand on saving lives. There is hope. I recommend with police and Emergency services approval that our community discuss the use of NARCAN, a medicine used for the reversal of an overdose in an emergency situation.

    My heart goes out to all families suffering with this disease. There is hope and help in our community through your healthcare or free services at the Malvern Center in the Great Valley Shopping center.
    Reach out for the help.

  7. NARCAN is an excellent suggestion. It absolutely saves lives. We have a candidate for school board who disagrees – preferring to “thin the herd” but I would like to think most of us would agree.

  8. “but I mean trying to educate them before this happens. If I saw a fellow peer talk about how he/she just started out experimenting with drugs and eventually led to what it led to for me who knows what I would have done differently.”

    I agree wholeheartedly with the above statement.

    ARCH (Area Parents Caring and Helping)is a coalition working to keep kids alcohol and drug free.

    A main message to parents from ARCH has always been to Talk Talk Talk about drug and alcohol use to your children. ARCH hosts events that help educate citizens on the dangers of drug and alcohol use by children. ARCH relies primarily on donations from the community to bring insightful, real life, and educational information in the way of panels consisting of experts in the field and recovering addicts who share real life experiences about the horrors of drug addiction. I have spoken to folks who have attended these events. They are extremely effective, and have a major impact on all who attend. The only negative comment I hear is that the information is not directed at the citizens who need it most. The events are scheduled on weekday nights and Wed. mornings at TEAO offices. I think it would be a great idea to take the information, in the form of panels and presentations into the schools where it can reach the people who will benefit from it most.

    I also believe it would be the right thing to do to allocate funds from the District Budget for ARCH. As I have written to ARCH leaders, if we can spend $4.5M on a maintenance building that will cost $6M to repay, and hundreds of thousands of dollar on fencing, and if we can create two new Administrator positions at top of the pay scale salaries (weren’t those salaries granted so we could attract the top talent from the outside?)then we can direct funding (that would dwarf the above) for programs and services that would actually benefit students and address a problem that is getting bigger not smaller.

    Thanks to board member Liz Mercogliano for your support on this topic and thanks to the young man who demonstrated enormous strength and courage in writing this letter to Pattye and the School Board.

  9. AGREE!!!! We have lost too many. You guys haven’t had NOPE come into the school to talk to the students? If you are interested in scheduling contact Holcomb Behavioral Health 484-444-0412 and tell them you want to schedule the school presentations. They have hit 10 of the 12 county school districts last year and from what I’ve heard that they guidance/resource office was busy for the next several days after with students wanting to discuss their drug use or concerns about a friend or loved one.

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