By JOE GORMAN
A batch of deadly heroin blamed for 22 deaths in a week in Western Pennsylvania has not made its way to the Mahoning Valley.
Local law-enforcement officials say the heroin, which has a street name of theraflu, has stayed around the Pittsburgh region, where it is blamed for killing 22 people beginning Jan. 19 within a six-county area.
“We haven’t seen anything like that around here,” said Bob Balzano, head of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration office in Boardman.
Youngstown police vice squad commander Lt. Gerard Slattery also said there has been no sign of the deadly heroin in the city; and Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jeff Orr, head of the Trumbull Ashtabula Group drug task force, said the drug has not appeared there either.
Orr and Balzano both said that the Mahoning Valley’s heroin comes from points other than Western Pennsylvania.
“We don’t have Pennsylvania as a source,” Balzano said.
Typically, Orr said, Trumbull County’s heroin comes from New York or Detroit.
Balzano has said heroin in Mahoning County typically comes through New York, Chicago and Columbus. Some small towns on the state line may receive heroin from Youngstown, but it is not a lot and the traffic is usually one way.
Authorities are blaming heroin laced with the painkiller fentanyl for the deaths. Fentanyl is a powerful narcotic painkiller that often is used to help treat cancer .
Rich Johnson, deputy coroner in Lawrence County, Pa., said his office has dealt with three suspected heroin overdose deaths this month and is upgrading its blood- screening techniques to scan for traces of fentanyl.
Johnson said no fentanyl was found in one of the deaths, and tests are pending in the other two cases.
In 2013 Lawrence County had about 30 deaths from heroin overdoses, which Johnson said is very high. He said typically the county has about 10 to 14 such deaths.
The new batch does concern him because nearby Butler County has had some cases involving fetanyl, he said.
Other street names for the drug include “Bud Ice” and “Income Tax.”
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said this week that Lawrence County is one of six counties where the heroin has been distributed. The others are Allegheny, Westmoreland, Butler, Armstrong and Beaver.
Dr. Joseph Ohr, a foresnic pathologist for the Mahoning County Coroner’s office, said that he has not had any heroin-overdose cases this year where fentanyl was used. He said he has seen heroin and fentanyl mixed, but mostly he sees fentanyl mixed with pills.
Fentanyl in its legal form is used as a patch and gradually releases the painkiller into a person’s blood stream, Ohr said. He said it becomes dangerous when a person swallows the whole patch at once or uses more amounts of the drug than is safe.