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Eric Gay 

Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox wears a wrestling mask as he takes part in a media availability for the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Minneapolis. Philadelphia is scheduled to face the New England Patriots Sunday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)


Crime-and-courts
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Cumberland County
Coroner: Inmate died from fentanyl overdose at Cumberland County Prison

An inmate who died at Cumberland County Prison earlier this month died of a fentanyl overdose, according to Cumberland County Coroner Charley Hall.

Around 8:49 p.m. Jan. 9, William Keller, 28, an inmate from Harrisburg, was found unresponsive in a male work release housing unit, according to a news release issued by the county. Keller later died.

An autopsy and toxicology were done to determine the man’s cause of death. Hall said Tuesday those reports showed Keller died from a fentanyl overdose.

Narcan was used to attempt to revive Keller, Cumberland County Prison Warden Earl Reitz said. While substance use and addiction are not new to the prison, this is the first time Narcan has been used within the prison, Reitz said.

“Correctional staff, medical staff and ultimately EMS worked valiantly to keep this guy alive,” Reitz said. “I can’t stress that enough.”

More than a third of all inmates entering the prison in 2015 were given some kind of medication to detox from substance use, according to county records. Reitz said there are now eight to 11 inmates detoxing at the prison at any given time.

Trusty

Keller was a trusty residing in a male work release housing unit at the time of his death, Reitz said. A trusty is an inmate who typically does work for the county or local municipalities and is authorized to work outside the prison while awaiting other employment.

Keller was sentenced to nine to 23 months in county prison after pleading guilty to misdemeanor receiving stolen property in July and authorized for work release, according to court records.

How the fentanyl made its way into the prison is subject to a criminal investigation by Middlesex Township Police — where the prison is located — Reitz said. He said policy requires all inmates be strip-searched when returning to the prison from outside work.

“I am confident that the inmates are being strip-searched by policy and procedure,” Reitz said.

However, contraband remains a problem.

“Contraband is a problem and the opioid epidemic amplifies that problem immensely,” Reitz said. “It is a problem that correctional staff and jails across the nation face on a daily basis.”

Contraband

The number of people charged with attempting to bring controlled substances into the prison has risen sharply during the last several years. In 2015, only one person was charged with possession of controlled substance contraband at the prison, according to court records. That number rose to 10 in 2017, court records show.

This includes all people coming into the prison and not just work-release inmates. However, Reitz said this is only a portion of the instances at the prison. He said not all instances are caught and not all instances when caught result in criminal charges.

Reitz said the No. 1 contraband item that people try to get into the prison is not illicit drugs, but rather tobacco products.


Carlisle
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Carlisle
Carlisle Bon-Ton to close

The Bon-Ton at the Point at Carlisle Plaza will be closing, one of 42 stores nationwide to be shuttered as the company seeks to right its struggling finances, Bon-Ton Stores Inc. announced Wednesday.

The “store rationalization program” includes a total of eight stores in Pennsylvania to be closed, according to the announcement, although the Carlisle store is the only Midstate location. Other Pennsylvania locations to be closed include State College and Selinsgrove.

Bon-Ton will still have locations in Lower Allen Township, Harrisburg and York.

Store closing sales are scheduled to begin Thursday and run for about 10 to 12 weeks, with Hilco Merchant Resources assisting in liquidation, according to Bon-Ton’s announcement.

Associates at the closing locations will be offered the opportunity to interview for available positions at other stores, according to Bon-Ton.

On Monday, Bon-Ton filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission to indicate that it was negotiating with its lenders to restructure approximately $350 million of its debt obligations, although there “are no assurances” that the company and its creditors will reach an agreement.

The filing indicated Bon-Ton would seek to increase its earnings through several “turnaround initiatives,” including the liquidation of stores that contribute little to bottom-line earnings.

Such stores are “situated in dying malls or centers and suffering from overwhelming competitive pressures,” according to materials in the SEC filing, and their closure would improve the company’s bottom line by about $5.3 million in 2018. The company will also likely close one of its three distribution sites, located in Fairborn, Ohio.

In 2017, Bon-Ton’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization totaled $100 million. The company projects it can raise this bottom line to $184 million by 2020 under the reorganization plan that it has presented to its lenders.

Bon-Ton will seek to increase its online presence. Currently, 12 percent of the company’s revenue is through e-commerce. Increasing this to 20 percent would increase net earnings by about $40 million, the company told investors.

Bon-Ton also plans to ramp up its private brand offerings. In-store labels currently make up 18 percent of Bon-Ton sales, compared to a competitor like J.C. Penny at 52 percent of sales.

Bon-Ton said its total sales depend on a relatively small variety items — 15 percent of its assortment accounts for 60 percent of sales, and the company projects cuts to its seasonal fashions inventory.

The company also operates stores under other banners, such as Carson’s and Berger’s, and said there are opportunities to renovate and possibly expand some stores in more promising markets.

“As part of the comprehensive turnaround plan we announced in November, we are taking the next steps in our efforts to move forward with a more productive store footprint,” Bill Tracy, president and chief executive officer for the Bon-Ton Stores, said in a statement. “Including other recently announced store closures, we expect to close a total of 47 stores in early 2018. We remain focused on executing our key initiatives to drive improved performance in an effort to strengthen our capital structure to support the business going forward.

“We would like to thank the loyal customers who have shopped at these locations and express deep gratitude to our team of hard-working associates for their commitment to Bon-Ton and to serving our customers,” Tracy said.


Ask_answer
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Ask/Answered
Ask/Answered: Opiate prescribing in Cumberland County

Ask/Answered is a weekly feature for reader-submitted questions. Follow the blog online at www.cumberlink.com:

How many opiates are prescribed in Cumberland County?

As the Midstate remains in the midst of a growing overdose epidemic, some focus has shifted to reducing the number of opiates prescribed to patients.

Like many counties in the area, Cumberland County has seen a decrease in the prescribing of opiates.

The most up-to-date and readily available data for county-level prescribing of opiates is from 2016 and comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2016, opiates were prescribed to patients at a rate of 69.4 per 100 people in the county, according to the CDC.

This equates to roughly 169,200 pills in Cumberland County.

That is down from about 195,400 pills in 2013 when the rate in Cumberland County was 82.3 per 100 people, according to the CDC.

However, the reduction of prescription opiates may have contributed to a rise in overdose deaths.

As prescribing was pared back in the county, overdose deaths rose sharply beginning in 2014, according to county records.

Overdose deaths in the county went from 28 in 2013 to more than 60 in 2016 and eclipsed 80 last year, according to Cumberland County Coroner Charley Hall.

The rise in overdose deaths was highly correlated to the reduction in opiate prescription opiates, according to an analysis conducted by The Sentinel.

One theory is that as prescription opiates became more scares and more expensive in the illicit market, more dangerous drugs like heroin and now fentanyl replaced them.

In February, Pennsylvania Options for Wellness Chief Medical Officer Dr. Carrie DeLone, former physician general under Gov. Tom Corbett, told The Sentinel that a rise in heroin deaths was an expected outcome from the state instituting policies like a prescription drug monitoring program to reduce over-prescribing opiates.

“The initial problem is that we have people who are addicted and now we are not giving them as many pharmaceutical-grade painkillers, so they are moving to heroin,” she said in February.

DeLone said the moves to reduce over-prescribing though were necessary to stop the number of people addicted to opiates from growing.

“It’s not always good to be right,” she said in February. “Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in heroin overdose deaths since we’ve instituted some mechanisms to decrease that abuse. That doesn’t mean these weren’t the right decisions.”

Send us your questions

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Whether it’s politics, crime, history or just something you’ve always been curious about, if you have questions, The Sentinel will look for the answer and provide it in our online blog and as a weekly feature in the Sentinel print edition.

Shoot us an email at frontdoor@cumberlink.com, call 240-7125 or stop by the office to submit your questions.

The best questions will be featured in weekly Ask/Answered columns online and in print.


Clark, Lawrence Strausser, Donna


State-and-regional
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Train carrying Perry, other GOP lawmakers hits truck, killing one on truck

CROZET, Va. — A train carrying dozens of Republican members of Congress to a policy retreat in the countryside slammed into a garbage truck in rural Virginia on Wednesday, killing one person in the truck and sending several lawmaker-doctors rushing to help the injured.

No serious injuries were reported among those on the train, an Amtrak charter that set out from the nation’s capital with lawmakers and staff for the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. At least two people in the truck were reported seriously hurt.

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-4, confirmed in a statement that he was on the train but “is fine.”

The collision took place around 11:20 a.m. in Crozet, about 125 miles southwest of Washington, tearing the truck in two, crumpling the nose of the locomotive and scattering trash alongside the tracks.

Authorities gave no details on the cause of the wreck, which took place at a crossing protected by gates, flashing lights, bells and warning signs. The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to investigate.

A man who lives near the railroad crossing where the crash occurred says the crossing arms have not been working correctly.

Benny Layne said the truck landed on his property Wednesday after the collision.

Layne told The Associated Press that he has recently seen lines of cars stopped at the crossing, with the crossing arms lowered even though no train was approaching.

He said motorists would get out of their cars to help guide other motorists around the malfunctioning arms so they could cross the tracks.

Layne says he has seen the arms stay down for hours. He also says he saw a man examining the crossing arms this week.

CSX Transportation owns the tracks where the crash occurred. Buckingham Branch Railroad leases the tracks and is responsible for maintenance, signaling and traffic dispatching on the line.

A spokeswoman for Buckingham said she was not aware of any problems with equipment at the crossing but referred questions to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash.

Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma, said he felt “a tremendous jolt” nearly two hours into the trip, and the train stopped quickly.

Florida Rep. Neal Dunn, a former Army surgeon, said he and other lawmakers who are doctors joined other passengers who are nurses or paramedics and jumped out with the basic medical gear they had. They broke into three teams to help the injured people in the truck, he said.

“The first gentleman was somebody who had really, really, really devastating injuries. We did try to resuscitate, but ultimately you had to realize it wasn’t possible,” Dunn said. He said another man in the truck was critically injured and a third was seriously hurt.

Officials gave varying figures on the number hurt. But Amtrak said two crew members and three passengers were taken to a hospital with minor injuries.

Minnesota Rep. Jason Lewis’ staff tweeted that the first-term congressman was among those taken to the hospital and was being checked for a concussion.

The policy retreat, an annual event, was scheduled to last three days and feature speeches from President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. By early afternoon, lawmakers were boarding buses to resume their trip, and Pence was still planning to address them later Wednesday.

Rep. James Comer of Kentucky said about 100 Republican lawmakers were on the train when the crash made him jump out of his seat.

“I looked out the side of the window and then I could see a truck, just in pieces out the side of the window,” Comer said. He said Capitol police officers quickly jumped off the train but came back and asked for any doctors to help.

Other doctor-lawmakers who assisted included Reps. Michael Burgess, of Texas, Phil Roe of Tennessee, Larry Bucshon of Indiana and Roger Marshall of Kansas, and Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, according to those aboard.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was on the train and was unhurt, aides said.