LEHIGH COUNTY - County invests in opioid fight
Lehigh County officials Dec. 20 introduced the newest initiative in their effort to meet the opioid crisis plaguing county residents; a website that shows parents how to look for drugs that may be hidden in a child’s bedroom.
Outgoing County Executive Tom Muller introduced the topic, telling reporters gathered in a basement room of the administrative building that the problem of opioid abuse is rampant in Lehigh County. Alluding to a recent visit to one of the county’s school districts, he said that a student said his or her high school is referred to as “Heroin High.”
“We have a drug crisis,” said Muller. “It has become a priority. We aren’t winning against drugs and alcohol.”
Incoming Executive Phillips Armstrong, who will inherit the problem, was in the room with Muller.
Muller said that every 45 hours someone in the county dies from drugs. “Our death rate is going up.”
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,” said Muller, “but I think we will be successful. 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 that both the national (16.3 per 100,000) average and the state’s average (26.3 per 100,000).
However, a person doesn’t have to be a resident of Lehigh County to die here. Counting non-residents among the dead raises Lehigh County’s drug death rate to 31.88 per 100,000.
Opioid is a category that includes heroin, methadone, prescription pain pills like OxyContin, and fentanyl. Nationally, about 42,000 or two-thirds of last year’s drug deaths involved opioids.
In introducing a parental education website, Muller said it is “shocking” regarding all of the ways that 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 https://home.lehighcounty.org/drugandalcohol.
A mock teen bedroom has plenty of hiding places, to help parents get an idea 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 including state and federal money. He said $1.4 to $1.9 million is dedicated to prevention and education programs.