Valley overdose deaths continue to rise
Drug overdose deaths have increased sharply in the Lehigh Valley since 2014, according to records maintained by both the Northampton and Lehigh county coroners. These fatalities have increased sharply even though drug overdose reversal kits have been widely available and have been used by first responders over the past year.
In Northampton County, drug overdose deaths have tripled since 2014. There were 31 deaths that year. This year, as of Oct. 25, 91 Northampton County residents have succumbed to opiates. In Lehigh County, there were 88 drug overdose deaths in 2014. In 2017, that number has soared to 167 as of Oct. 22
“Unfortunately, we are outperforming Norco,” saidLehigh County Executive Tom Muller.
NorCo Coroner Zach Lysek has told County Council that his staff now collects a decedent’s prescription drugs. So far this year, his team has collected 407 pounds of drugs.
Lehigh County Executive Tom Muller said that “as you clamp down on the Rx side, the ‘market’ tends to shift to the even more dangerous illegal market where fentanyl has become prominent.”
Fenatanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. It is sometimes sold as heroin, leading to overdoses.
According to Muller, “This isn’t just an Allentown and minorities issue, as the prejudiced and ignorant mind might suspect.”
NorCo’s Children Youth and Families Director Kevin Dolan would certainly agree. He has told County Council that caseworkers responding to complaints have observed the problem has had a widespread impact on wealthier suburban communities where the parent, and not the child, is addicted.