Northwestern Press

Tuesday, August 21, 2018
J. Layne TurnerPress photo by Douglas Graves J. Layne TurnerPress photo by Douglas Graves

County invests in fighting opioid crisis

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 by Douglas Graves Special to The Press in Local News

Lehigh County officials recently introduced the newest initiative in their effort to meet the opioid crises plaguing county residents.

A new website was unveiled that shows parents how to look for drugs that may be hidden in a child’s bedroom.

Then county Executive Tom Muller introduced the topic, telling reporters gathered in a basement room of the administrative building the problem of opioid abuse in Lehigh County is rampant.

Alluding to a recent visit to one of the county’s school districts, he said a student said his or her high school is referred to as “Heroin High.”

“We have a drug crisis,” Muller said. “It has become a priority. We aren’t winning against drugs and alcohol.”

The present county Executive Phillips Armstrong was in the room with Muller.

Muller said every 45 hours someone in the county dies from drugs.

“Our death rate is going up,” Muller said.

In the past months, the county coroner asked for a budget increase, so he could afford to transport and process the overload of bodies at the county morgue.

“It’s a tremendous cost to the county but I think we will be successful,” Muller said. We’re going to keep coming at this every which-way.”

Muller buttressed his concerns with some statistics: Lehigh County’s drug overdose death rate (26.8 per 100,000) is higher than both the national average (16.3 per 100,000) and the state’s average (26.3 per 100,000).

Counting nonresidents among the deceased raises Lehigh County’s drug death rate to 31.88 per 100,000.

Heroin, methadone and prescription pain pills, such as OxyContin and fentanyl lead to the drug overdoses. Nationally, about 42,000, or two-thirds, of last year’s drug deaths involved opioids.

While introducing a parental education website, Muller said it is shocking as to all of the ways kids hide drugs.

The website-hosted video cataloged and illustrated some clever hiding places and “hide in plain sight” techniques children have been known to use in their bedrooms to hide drugs from parents and guardians. See the website at home.lehighcounty.org/drugandalcohol.

A mock teen bedroom has plenty of hiding places to help parents get an idea of where to looks for drugs in their child’s real bedroom.

Layne Turner, Lehigh County’s drug and alcohol administrator, said the county’s budget to operate his department and to fund the education program comes from a variety of sources that include state and federal money. He said $1.4 to $1.9 million is dedicated to prevention and education programs.