County board approves plan for opioid issue
The soldiers in Lehigh County’s fight against the opioid crisis just got some sharp, new teeth that will allow them to attack a major source of the problem — the drug manufacturers.
Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin, the chief law enforcement officer, has marshaled the law firm of Haviland Hughes, of Philadelphia, to help him. Martin introduced the law firm to the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners Jan. 24 and asked the members to back him in his new attack plan to go after the big pharmacy companies and distributors believed responsible for producing and selling opioids that end up in the Lehigh Valley.
While they don’t expect to see any drug company executives go to jail, Martin and Attorney Donald Haviland Jr. do expect to put a dent in the wallets of the pharmaceutical companies that are in their sights.
If successful, after attorney’s fees, the county could get money to put toward the expenses of the opioid epidemic, such as offsetting money allocated to the county coroner’s office last year for the purpose of transporting the victims of opioid use.
After a lengthy presentation to the commissioners, meeting as the governance committee, Commissioner Geoffrey Brace recommended approval to the commissioners, who unanimously approved the outside counsel for “potential claims of the county arising from the purchase, use and abuse of opioids manufactured and sold by various companies.”
Haviland Hughes is also representing Northampton County in a similar capacity.
Both counties are basing their legal action on the provisions of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.
In other business, commissioners appointed Attorney Sarah Murray to the position of Lehigh County solicitor and Cynthia Reddy to the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Advisory Board.
The board also approved the naming of Whitehall Township Mayor Edward D. Hozza Jr. as director of administration for Lehigh County. (See related photo on page A2.)
The commissioners approved a financial commitment of $3.5 million to begin necessary engineering and architectural work in the long-needed rehabilitation of the county-owned nursing facility in South Whitehall Township. The overall plan calls for $68 million for completion of the rebuilding of the campus.