ELK COUNTY--The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in the use of illegal drugs over the past year all over the United States, and even in rural Elk County, there have been noticeable changes. With the increasing availability of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, manufactured almost exclusively in China and smuggled into the United States over the Mexican border, local district attorneys have issued multiple warnings about drug abuse over the past year.
Deb Gnan, the mother of Steve Gnan, who died tragically in a drug-related accident with the train on Montmorenci Avenue, spoke of her frustration with the drug situation in Elk County. Gnan expressed dismay with the inability of local law enforcement, which due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was unable to keep her son incarcerated for any length of time, on evidence of his abuse of opioids that the family brought to the police. At the time of his death, no charges were pending against the 41-year-old Ridgway man on illegal substances, though there was an ongoing strangulation and harassment case that was dismissed upon his death.
Supported by her daughter Jessica Gnan Miller and close friends Delores Groeger and Tammy Smith, Deb Gnan recounted her attempts to try to get Steve into treatment, and as a last resort presenting evidence to the police concerning his decline into drugs. Unfortunately, police and the Judicial System can seldom use this kind of evidence since there is no proper chain-of-custody established, and evidence can all too easily be tainted. The Commissioners expressed compassion for the situation and directed Gnan to the local Mecca-Mann Mission, Inc., which is a group of mothers and others dedicated to addressing drug abuse in Elk County.
Read More in Wednesdays Ridgway Record.