FBI-Pittsburgh Says Taking On The Opioid Crisis Requires Multi-Pronged Approach

Opioid overdose deaths in western Pennsylvania dropped 43 percent in 2018 after several years of steady increases. Officials in the FBI-Pittsburgh field office credit the decrease to a coordinated effort that targets legal and illegal sellers of the drug, addiction treatment, and an increased accessibility to the overdose reversal medication naloxone.

Bob Jones, special agent in charge of the Pittsburgh office, joined Monday’s episode of The Confluence to discuss the evolving strategies law enforcement employs to fight the opioid epidemic in the Appalachian region. 

Jody Gary teaches sixth grade for the Turkeyfoot School District. He has started there in 1992 with a salary of $18,500.
Credit Dani Fresh / Keystone Crossroads

According to Jones, the FBI has formed a working group to look at fentanyl coming into Pennsylvania from China through channels like the dark web. Jones admits that monitoring activity on the elicit website is a challenge, but that the FBI is targeting any vulnerability they can find to limit the number of marketplaces for illicit drugs.

Later in the program:

Greg Spencer, owner of the chemical company Randall Industries, is approaching retirement from his day job. His work outside of that job, though, is far from over. Spencer talks with 90.5 WESA’s Elaine Effort about his work mentoring the young people in his community for more than 30 years.

Gov. Tom Wolf has called for raising the starting salary for teachers across Pennsylvania to a new baseline of $45,000 as part of his latest budget proposal. The current minimum teacher salary is $18,500 per year and the new baseline could affect more than 3,000 teachers in mostly rural schools. For Keystone Crossroads, reporter Jen Kinney reports from Turkeyfoot, PA where some teachers start at $22,000.

Recently resettled Afghani women will prepare food for the audience while performers tell their stories on stage. The women hope to one day open an Afghani restaurant here in Pittsburgh.
Credit Courtesy of RealTime Interventions

A local project mixes the cultural with the culinary to celebrate the culture of Afghanistan. RealTime Interventions and the Office of Public Art will present,​“Khūrākī,” by artist Molly Rice in collaboration with a group of recently-resettled Afghan refugees in Pittsburgh. The performances will feature actors presenting theatrical portraits of five Afghani women who have recently become Pittsburghers.

While the actors tell their stories, the women will cook Afghan dishes for the audience as practice for their long-term goal of opening an Afghani restaurant in Pittsburgh. Hear from the team behind the performances and two of the featured Afghani women as they talk to 90.5 WESA’s Bob Studebaker about the project.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike commission has been working on fully-automating the toll collection system for nearly a decade. While the automation could aid the turnpike’s financial woes, it could also mean mass layoffs for the state’s more than 500 working toll collectors. 90.5 WESA’s Margaret J. Krauss reports the move could reduce the turnpike's approximately $400 million operating budget by about $70 million, but it’s not clear that the turnpike would actually recoup those savings.

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.