Lehigh County, PA – The Lehigh County District Attorney’s office will receive $1 million in state funding to combat the continuing opioid crisis, according to Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin.
“We need to put an end to this,” Martin said. “I want to sincerely thank Senator Browne not only for his efforts with respect to this appropriation, but for his help to law enforcement over the entirety of his career in the Pennsylvania House and Senate.”
Senator Browne secured the $1 million in the Fiscal Year 2022-23 state budget from funding in the Opioid Settlement Restricted Account that was established within the General Fund.
The funding to be deposited in the Opioid Settlement Restricted Account is from the $26 billion nationwide opioid settlement with three major pharmaceutical distributors – Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen – and Johnson and Johnson over the companies’ role in creating and fueling the nationwide opioid crisis.
All 67 Counties in Pennsylvania signed onto the settlement, which meant that Pennsylvania would receive its full share of the settlement at $1.07 billion.
“District Attorney Martin has been a leader in taking action and combating the opioid crisis that is plaguing Pennsylvania,” Browne said. “I am happy to provide this state funding to help him in his efforts to assist those struggling with opioid addiction and to prosecute those who are preying on our citizens by illegally selling these dangerous narcotics.”
The $1 million secured by Senator Browne will go to help the Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center (RIIC), which the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office oversees, continue its efforts to fight the opioid crisis and help those who have been affected by opioid addiction get the help and assistance they need.
The RIIC has been tracking drug deaths related to opioids since 2015. In the 7-year period from 2015-2021, there have been at least 1,148 overdose deaths in Lehigh County.
“This funding, provided mainly through the efforts of Senator Pat Browne, will contribute greatly to our ability to investigate these types of deaths, identify the offenders, prosecute them and provide treatment alternatives for those identified with substance use disorders,” Martin said. “We can accomplish some of this through the Blue Guardian and the HUB Model programs.”
Blue Guardian, a program established with Lehigh County Drug and Alcohol and the RIIC, was launched in 2018. Blue Guardian is a program whereby people who have been revived through the use of naloxone receive a visit at their home within 48-72 hours by a police officer and a Certified Recovery Specialist (CRS). The objectives of Blue Guardian are to help people into treatment and to increase awareness of resources available to combat addiction.
In the 4-year period from 2018 to 2021, over 1,000 people have received naloxone administered by local law enforcement in Lehigh County.
“In every case involving a local resident, an effort was made to convince those people to seek treatment,” Martin said. “Through this appropriation, we may be able to offer financial assistance to encourage treatment.”
The HUB Model was introduced in 2018 in the Upper Macungie Township Police Department. Police officers are paired in sessions attended by social workers, certified recovery specialists and drug and alcohol counselors to offer appropriate treatment to those identified with mental health issues, substance use disorder or those who have had repeated interactions with police or Human Services.
“This money may be used in part with other county and Trexler Trust grant funding to help expand the HUB Model to all law enforcement agencies in Lehigh County,” Martin said. “Additionally, the funding may also be used to expand the RIIC’s Illicit Drug Identification and Tracking System (IDITS) to inform strategic responses to drug problems in Lehigh County as well as to provide increased investigation of drug delivery resulting in death and other large-scale investigations by the Lehigh County Drug Task Force.”
The RIIC, which has been operational since January 2013, supports local, state and federal law enforcement partners within both Lehigh and Northampton counties by providing law enforcement with a mechanism for better communication and collaboration of cross-jurisdictional criminal activity throughout the Lehigh Valley.
“The RIIC plays an integral role for the District Attorney’s office and law enforcement as they develop and implement strategies to combat the opioid crisis,” Browne said. “I want to thank District Attorney Martin, his office and the RIIC for all of their tremendous work dealing with this epidemic. I am pleased that I could provide some additional funding to help in their efforts.”
The technology and services offered by the RIIC have improved the core activities of investigative case support by creating efficiencies for data query, effectiveness through the integration of multiple systems, enablement for investigative operations through its custom applications, and its host of analytic services offered that are valuable from investigation through prosecution.
Matt Moyer (Senator Browne) firstname.lastname@example.org
Pamela Lehman (District Attorney Martin) email@example.com\