READING – The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a bipartisan, bicameral legislative group looking at issues affecting rural areas of the Commonwealth, held a public hearing today at Reading Area Community College examining current policies and practices related to heroin and opioid addiction, including prevention, treatment, and law enforcement efforts. Berks County Sen. Judy Schwank hopes information from the hearing can be used to develop legislative and regulatory action that may help to curb the use of these dangerous narcotics impacting rural Pennsylvania. This was the second of four hearings held across the state. In PA, the number of fatal heroin overdoses has been steadily increasing. According to a 2014 report from the PA State Coroners Association, there were 45 reported heroin deaths in 2009 and 124 reported heroin deaths by mid-2013. Officials say the increase in heroin use is occurring as addicts are shifting from more costly prescription opioids to cheaper alternatives.