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‘Heroin Hits Home:’ PSA or Political Ad?

SCRANTON — Television commercials, billboard ads, and a web page from the “Heroin Hits Home” campaign all feature Lackawanna County District Attorney Shan...
heroin hits home

SCRANTON -- Television commercials, billboard ads, and a web page from the “Heroin Hits Home” campaign all feature Lackawanna County District Attorney Shane Scanlon, who will be running for election next year.

It raises the question: are they public service announcements or political ads?

The commercials are gripping and powerful, and then the Lackawanna County district attorney appears.

“I think we have to start with the understanding that I am the district attorney,” Scanlon said.

Scanlon says this isn't the first time a prosecutor in Lackawanna County put their faces on initiatives.

He showed a decade of anti-drug and alcohol calendars featuring his predecessor Andrew Jarbola, now a common pleas court judge.

But this $50,000 campaign funded with money from drug arrests features TV ads that broadcast Scanlon into thousands of living rooms.

An email obtained by Newswatch 16 shows an ad agency executive writing Scanlon, saying, “Do not want to miss an opportunity for residents to experience a direct connection to you, your name, your face, your brand as soon as possible.”

“It’s the district attorney saying, ‘People are dying.’ We lose someone here every five days. I need people to know that if they need help, we’re willing to help them," Scanlon said.

“It’s a very fine line that one’s walking within this particular commercial,” said David Sosar, a political science professor at King's College.

Sosar says the ads give Scanlon a head start over anyone else running for district attorney next year.

“Why is this particular individual being selected to be the voice and to be the face of this particular project when there are others out there that would and could be considered much less political?” Sosar added.

“That’s the most pressing problem right now is the heroin addiction and the people that need the help. The overdoses. That’s the number one topic that we should be focusing on,” said Lisa Tricarico of Wilkes-Barre.

Scanlon says he doesn’t care what his critics think.

“If I could save lives, if I could save a life, there’s nothing that could stop me from doing this.”

Scanlon says if he wanted to use a publicly funded ad campaign to improve his chances of getting elected, he’d talk tough on law and order and avoid the issue of addiction.