Sen. Pat Toomey sat down with Lehigh County law enforcement, addiction specialists and health officials to find out what impact the pandemic had on drug deaths, reported WFMZ-TV.
According to the district attorney's office, drug deaths were up nine percent in 2020, and stand at 69 deaths year to date.
But the DA says some of those deaths are not Lehigh County residents.
"We have a significant number of people from surrounding counties come to Allentown to buy the drugs and overdose here," said Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin.
Martin says the Lehigh County Drug Task Force is working aggressively to tackle the out-of-county issue.
And programs like Blue Guardian are helping residents get into treatment within 72 hours of an overdose, with a 50-percent success rate.
Ibn Quawee, an addiction recovery specialist, says in addition to a spike in illegal drugs, there's also an increase in the use of the dangerous synthetic drug K2. He says fear is a major barrier when it comes to treatment.
"A lot of fear of wanting treatment and having to make the choice of whether to have an apartment or am I gonna lose my children," Quawee said.
Health officials told Toomey more needs to be done to tackle why people turn to drugs in the first place.
"The underlying mental health issues, the addictive nature and the problems that develop in the brain that are associated with addiction and increases the incidence of relapse," Toomey said.
Toomey says he's working on several bills that deal with drug treatment, banning analog drugs and penalizing countries that manufacture and ship illegal drugs to the U.S.
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