Bethlehem Press

Thursday, December 13, 2018
John Sienkiewicz, president of Safer Streets for Tamaqua’s Little Feet, holds up a package of rolling paper. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS John Sienkiewicz, president of Safer Streets for Tamaqua’s Little Feet, holds up a package of rolling paper. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS
A look at packages of methamphetamine, along with a bottle which is the shake-and-bake method of manufacturing it, that is usually carried in a backpack. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS A look at packages of methamphetamine, along with a bottle which is the shake-and-bake method of manufacturing it, that is usually carried in a backpack. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS

Education is key to stopping drug epidemic

Thursday, March 30, 2017 by Terry Ahner tahner@tnonline.com in Local News

Education is pivotal in the continued attempts to address the heroin epidemic.

“One of our biggest problems is heroin,” John Sienkiewicz, president of Safer Streets for Tamaqua’s Little Feet, said at a recent STEP-Up Tamaqua meeting. “What they’re doing now is a diabetic needle.”

Sienkiewicz said the diabetic needles are sold at Walmart by the box of 100.

Safer Streets for Tamaqua’s Little Feet purchased a mock drug board for educational purposes by through donations and fundraisers.

“Education is key to stopping this epidemic,” he said. “By that, we mean adults, parents and children need to be educated.”

Sienkiewicz said, “With children, the education needs to include all aspects. What happens if you start, where it leads and what the end result will most likely be.

“With adults, they need to know what the drugs look like, and (what) all the symptoms of drug use are,” he said. “They also need to know that it is OK to get educated without having the problem in their family, because it could become them or a friend’s kid. They can use that knowledge to help the person or family.”

Sienkiewicz’s daughter Alex died of an overdose of fentanyl last year. The people accused of selling her the drugs were charged this week.

Sienkiewicz and his wife, Tammy, created Safer Streets for Tamaqua’s Little Feet on May 25, 2016, to educate school kids, and adults alike, on drug addiction.

The group is a nonprofit that is run on donations. For more information, visit www.saferstreetstamaqua.com, or follow them on Facebook at Safer Streets for Tamaqua’s Little Feet.

“We also do help those affected by addiction get help through rehab and recovery houses; we give support to families with answers to hard questions, education and a shoulder to cry on,” he said. “We always tell them they are not alone, and the response we get is ‘we thought we were.’ ”

Sienkiewicz said the group’s cleanups and beautification projects are designed to get those in recovery to give back to the community, and to have the community help as well.

“What this does is allow the recovering addict to see people do care and don’t always look down on them, and will give them a chance,” he said. “As for the community, it helps to show them that the recovering addict is still a person and deserves to be treated as one.”

He added, “Through this, we hope all can heal and help one another stop stereotyping one another. After all is said and done, we are all still humans, and the stigma surrounding addiction needs to be broken before we can heal.”

STEP-Up Tamaqua is a project of the Tamaqua Area Faith Fellowship Network, a 501(c)3 nonprofit under the umbrella of the Tamaqua Area Community Partnership. Its purpose is to address the addiction issue in the community. Contributions are welcome and may be sent to STEP-Up Tamaqua, 125 Pine St., Tamaqua, PA 18252.