Your Local News | Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Lehigh Valley Local News

Lehigh County to use opioid settlement money to rehab inmates

Lehigh County Jail, prison,  Allentown Center City, Lehigh valley
Donna S. Fisher
For LehighValleyNews.com
This is the Lehigh County Jail in Allentown, Pa. in February, 2023.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Money paid to Lehigh County to settle lawsuits with companies that produced addictive opiate medications will be used to help get county jail inmates off the drugs, county commissioners voted Wednesday.

An organization called Mid-Atlantic Rehabilitation Services will visit Lehigh County Jail to work with addicted inmates for the next three years at a cost of $200,000, approved by county commissioners.

  • The Lehigh County Board of Commissioners approved spending $200,000 on a three-year rehabilitation program for Lehigh County Jail inmates
  • The money for the program comes from lawsuits and settlements against prescription drug manufacturers who manufactured opiates
  • The program hopes to help more than 300 inmates

The program hopes to help more than 300 inmates.
The money will come from lawsuits and settlements with opiate manufacturers such as Teva, Endo, and even Walmart — effectively making those companies pay to get people off the drugs they made.

The program is set to start by the end of 2023 and run through 2026.

"This is a contract to work with folks who are going to come into the jail as part of the opioid settlement, to manage and treat addiction and mental health issues arising from that addiction in a way that we are hoping will lead to rehabilitation reducing recidivism," said Commissioner Dave Harrington, who was among those who introduced the bill.

You just got to think of 300 interconnected souls, the families and the friends that are going to see this turnaround that's coming from as I said, from the opioid settlement money.
Lehigh County Comissioner Dave Harrington

"You just got to think of 300 interconnected souls, the families and the friends that are going to see this turnaround is coming from, as I said, from the opioid settlement money."

"It is a way for companies that have been pushing these opiates into our communities to sort of try to alleviate the pain that they've caused."

The idea was approved unanimously.

"It's not money coming out of the county," Commissioner Zakiya Smalls said. "You know, helping over 300 individuals, it pays for itself. So I agree that this is very necessary, and I obviously fully support this."

More overdoses in Pa., Lehigh County

Nationally, the Legal Action Center estimates that around 19% of people in jails use opioids. People in Pennsylvania prisons are 129 times more likely to die from an overdose than anyone else, according to the Institutional Law Project.

In Pennsylvania, outside of prisons, an average of 14 people die from an opioid overdose every day, according to the Attorney General.

And projections indicate the rate still is going up. In Pennsylvania, 78 counties, including in Lehigh, have opioid overdose death rates higher than the national average.

According to the MARS website, its approach will include assessment services, case workers and educational sessions with the inmates.