Bethlehem Press

Thursday, May 23, 2019
Graphic by Ed Courrier Graphic by Ed Courrier

BLUE GUARDIAN: County considers program an early success

Tuesday, March 12, 2019 by Nate Jastrzemski in Local News


As the drug crisis continues countrywide, legal and medical professionals at every level are seeking new means of reducing opioid prescriptions, monitoring their use, saving lives and promoting treatment for those becoming dangerously addicted. In Lehigh County, officials’ experiment with a support program has seen early success.

Blue Guardian is a program devised more than a year ago to help guide addicts and their loved ones after near-tragedies through continued communication and broad support. In fact, officials said the support system on the governing end as encompassing the district attorney’s office, the Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center, Department of Drug and Alcohol, 15 municipal police departments, two state police barracks, six hospitals, treatment providers, certified recovery specialists and the Center of Excellence.

Following a life-saving incident, such as the increasingly-common incidents of overdose victims saved by EMS personnel with Narcan (Naloxone), specially certified police officers continue to check in, educate and encourage survivors to live clean and seek treatment.

As of last July, eight months after launch, 40 people became involved in the program and seven signed up for treatment.

Lehigh County Drug and Alcohol Administrator Layne Turner, District Attorney Jim Martin and Director of the Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center Julia Kocis responded jointly to inquiries through Executive Aide Megan Wieand.

“The program is highly successful. The Blue Guardian is one of many programs that is designed to focus on a complex social problem with attention to stabilizing an unbalanced substance abuse disorder ecosystem.” The program is under constant review and improvement, and they are considering other preventive policing options that would provide similar community support.

They say they haven’t observed a single aspect of the program that requires decisive improvement, but one known barrier is, “that over 50 percent of the individuals who are saved by law enforcement’s use of Naloxone are not from Lehigh County. Therefore, the joint police/certified recovery specialist home visit cannot occur.” This is because non-county residents are ineligible for the program, and the county cannot know whether they seek treatment.

The Northampton County DA’s office did not respond to inquiries on the subject.