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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, April 15, 2016

Morganelli, McNeill Take Aim at Heroin Epidemic

State rep. Dan McNeill with DA John Morganelli

Physically, it would be hard to find two people more different than Northampton County DA John Morganelli and State Rep Dan McNeill. Morganelli is small in stature, but is a fearless prosecutor, with 25 successful homicide cases under his belt  McNeill is a tough former ironworker who dwarfs a podium.But he's been deeply touched by the heroin epidemic ripping across the Lehigh Valley and the entire state. In recent weeks, he's teamed up with Lehigh County DA Jim Martin to raise public awareness of this crisis with town halls in Whitehall and Coplay. Now he's joining forces Morganelli as well to combat a serious public health problem. They both addressed their efforts following a meeting at the Northampton County Courthouse on April 14.

In recent months, Morganelli has arrested drug dealers who have sold heroin to victims who've overdosed and died. But Morganelli completely agrees with Lehigh County DA Jim Martin's assessment that it's impossible to "prosecute the problem away."

Heroin is now the biggest drug problem in the state. Its abuse is now the leading cause of accidental deaths in the state, surpassing accidental deaths, claims Morganelli. He also referred to statistics showing that accidental overdose deaths have been reported in 30 Lehigh Valley communities in 2014 and 2015.

In McNeill's town halls audiences have been frustrated at police for failing to take dealers off the streets, doctors for prescribing addictive painkillers and our health system for making it so difficult for families to find and then afford treatment for their loved ones.

At one of those town halls, McNeill invited Sharon Stauffer, a mother from Emmaus. She lost her son Ryan to a heroin overdose in 2010. He died with two needles stuck in his arm and eight empty bags of heroin by his side. Her poignant advice? "If your gut's telling you there's something wrong, there's something wrong."

Morganelli, who is one of three Democrats seeking his party's nomination for state Attorney General, said it's time to "change strategy" for accidental overdoses. "We have not been winning the war on drugs," he conceded. He has a three-pronged plan

First, Hit it at its source

He'd stop the flow of heroin into Pennsylvania by focusing on criminal organizations that bring it into the state and have made it cheap.He wants to form a "transnational organized crime unit" for a "full court press" to "crush" criminal enterprises that not only bring in heroin from other countries, but also engage in weapons trafficking, cyber crime and human trafficking. This specialized team would work closely with federal investigators.

Second, An ounce of prevention ...

Morganelli wants to step up preventive measures Every police department in the state would be supplied and trained with naloxone kits, which are used to treat heroin overdoses. He would overhaul a prescription drug monitoring program to make it easier to identify prescription drug abuse and tackle problems "before they get out of hand." He would expand the use of treatment courts and step up education efforts, particularly at schools.

Third, Support Your Local Sheriff

Sarah McCann shares story 
"We need more boots on the ground," he claimed. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a 2006 decision, effectively has prevented over 2,000 deputy sheriffs from participating in drug task forces. Noting that Sheriffs have the same training as police officers, he'd like to see legislation enacted that would give local DAs the option of using deputy sheriffs to participate in drug task forces.

Morganelli noted that as bad as heroin abuse is in the Lehigh Valley or in urban centers like Philadelphia, it's even worse in rural counties, where "county prisons have become detox units" and criminal justice resources are understaffed. Local sheriffs could fill that gap, he maintains.

At one of his town halls, McNeill provided an example of rural heroin abuse. Sarah McCann, age 24, is a farmer's daughter. And a heroin addict. She was shaking as she waited her turn to speak in Coplay At her young age, she's already lost a baby she was carrying. Her addicted boyfriend overdosed and died.

McNeill Forming Heroin Caucus, Wants Halfway Houses

Morganelli lauded McNeill for his efforts. For his part, the former trades union agent said he knew nothing about the subject until a few months ago. "What woke me up was when I heard from two parents who had just buried their children the day before," he said. "It blew my mind."

McNeill stated that Morganelli in Northampton County and Martin in Lehigh County have promised to help him in any way they can. Though he's running for re-election against Republican Dave Molony, he denied his interest is motivated by politics. "I have one Republican (Jim Martin) and one Democrat (John Morganelli) backing me, so I feel very good about that."

In Harrisburg, McNeill is setting up a bipartisan heroin caucus, and hopes to have 100 state legislators join him. He claimed the heroin epidemic "has to be stopped," and called it "totally out of control,." noting that there were over 3,000 heroin overdoes deaths last year in Pennsylvania. .

"These kids on heroin are not criminals," he said. "This has become a sickness."  He'd like to open up halfway houses specialized to deal with heroin and other opioids.

Dan McNeill clowns around with Tim Munsch
McNeill welcomes anyone with concerns to call his office (610-266-1273), regardless whether they live in his district.

As McNeill made his way out of the courthouse, he stopped to meet some members of Northampton County's Drug Court.

Tim Munsch, Director of Lehigh Valley Drug and Alcohol Intake,said that Lehigh Valley and St.Luke's Hospital should be more involved, and McNeill told him he'd like to use part of the vacant Allentown State Hospital to establish treatment for heroin and opioid addiction.

If You Need Help, There's Hope

Northampton County's Drug and Alcohol Division is sponsoring a presentation about the growing heroin and opioid epidemic. It will be hosted by HOPE (Heroin and Opioid Prevention Education) on Thursday, April 28, at 6:30 pm, at Bethlehem's Town Hall (10 E Church St, Bethlehem)

If you have a teenage child suffering from addiction or alcoholism, a parent support group meets every Thursday, 7 pm, at First Presbyterian Church of Allentown, 3231 Tilghman St, Allentown, PA 18104.  For more information, contact Donna Jacobsen at DonnaJacobsen657@gmail.com


Anonymous said...

Can you say, "Hegelian Dialectic"?

My goodness fellas...

Anonymous said...

Yawn. How about a real budget to address the issue. More work less talk.

Anonymous said...

still won't be the ag

Anonymous said...

Morganelli triboro AG, special crime victims unit prosecuting procicutors and officers of the court that act as if they are working for the best interest of the public for circus sideshows and diversionary tactiks employed for originators LVHN formally known as the great Allentown hospital fair?! A collective collaboration of destruction and discourse to the entire arena area and beoned working to identify opposition and destroy with any tools available be it private and or public?!
redd registered Republican
patent pending

Anonymous said...

Heroin is cheap and deadly. Bad combination. Lock em up does not work yet that is what JM has done for years on end. It solves nothing and the jailed junkie is replaced by another as soon as he is arrested. Vicious circle. How about we discuss some other state issues instead of drug addiction? Frackers? Hazardous waste dumpers? Polluters? White collar crime? _Plenty for a legit AG to go after!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, heroin dealers need to be locked up and users often need to be locked up bc they commit horrible crimes to feed their habit. It does not solve the problem, but it protects the public.

Anonymous said...

No drug traffic when you legalize it and control the supply. Crime drops to zero and you dole it out as need be to those who need it. Clean needles also part of the deal. This is not rocket science. Europe does it but we resist and crime sky rockets. Stop being prudes and get real.

Anonymous said...

Some of the problem begins and ends at circus level pain management and benefactors thereof, LVHN formally the great Allentown hospital Greeks and geeks than this collective collaboration of destruction at the core helps incubate the same over and over as a nue nue nue circus tool of the gerbell in the wheel?! Like a merry go round with officers of the collective court systems and there incubus being the only benefactors in this massive Madoff scheme against medicade that is understandable to none other than those large and in charge and able to commit such atroCITY's?!
The browne hole system needs a cleansing to say the least?
redd registered Republican
patent pending

Anonymous said...

There are too many seemingly respectable adults running for the shelter of their mother's little helpers. And there are too many doctors who prescribe opiates at the drop of a hat. Routine dental surgery will get you a 40-pill, addiction starter set. I don't know how it should be addressed, but it's a serious problem that's the quickest way to commence wrecking one's life.

Anonymous said...

That is why it is called hillbilly heroin?! The addicted elite think they have some rare and special addiction if there is even u a glimmer of the thought of an admmittance?! The others are guided through the criminal injustice justice system to skate?!
Local circus sideshow freeks and geeks are designing members of a hole collectively claiming ignorance to stats and facts as there swarm by design destroys and dedicated on our soil?! We normally in history did not bury our shit outside the front and back door as to mark our territory?!
redd registered Republican
patent pending

Racer X said...

The FDA approved synthetic opiates and swore it wouldn't be addictive because it was synthetic.

As far back as 2001 former PA AG Mike Fisher called on the maker of OxyContin to make changes to reduce abuse and addiction (Caldwell.Pa. official says OxyContin maker failing to stop abuse of drug. Philadelphia Inquirer. Aug 22, 2001).

In the late 1990s an up and coming stock car sensation named, Tim Steele had a terrible accident. In the aftermath his doctor prescribed OxyContin for his powerful headaches. Citing it wasn't addictive. Only using it for headaches made it addictive as it caused headaches. His aspirations to NASCAR's top level were ruined. As can be seen in this 15 minute story on Tim Steele (the OxyContin part is about 6-7 minutes in). https://vimeo.com/53691813

So along with the prescription drug market ratcheting up demand for heroin. Another elephant in the room is the increase in supply since 2002. You might notice that this has coincided with the US invasion of Afghanistan. The DoD and DoJ have never really done too much to address the constant flow of cargo planes into the poppy rich nation and the fact private contractors have such easy access to flights that are not put through as much rigorous searches for narcotics as commercial passenger flights. Worst of all--federal tax dollars had long funded these private contractor firms. Meaning the smuggling of heroin may have been often subsidized by the tax payers. Hence it's cheap street value making it even easier to purchase.

Anonymous said...

Way too little Way too late from John.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chilio Pepper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chilio Pepper said...

Heroin has been used as a recreational drug in the United States since at least 1860, a brand named drug manufactured in Germany as *a safe alternative to Morphine*. Heroin, morphine and cocaine (among other drugs) were completely unregulated until the 1920s when Congress enacted the "Dangerous Drug Act". As early as 1925 there were an estimated 200,000 heroin addicts in the United States. So, starting from a 1920 U.S. census of about 108,000,000 people- today's heroin epidemic is quite small by comparison. However we don't want to return to "the good old days".

There are many drugs now available to treat heroin addiction and to ease the pain of withdrawal. There are also easier roads to get the deadly stuff into the United States, the most profitable heroin market in the world by far.

It's just sad that heroin took tens of thousands of young Black and Brown lives over the decades without it becoming the headline grabber it is, today. Now that white children are dying from heroin in their numbers once again, maybe something effective will finally come about.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'll agree that our racist society would not be so quick to notice if only poor black city residents were being afflicted. I don't like to agree with this bc it exposes my own institutional racism, but you are correct. I will say that creating empathy for this problem is bound to enure to the benefit of one and all.

Anonymous said...

A serious issue for sure but I am getting sick of guys like Rep Dan McNeill and others ,making this a political issue, looking for photo ops.
Love how when a person dies and the public is questioning politicians including the DA , the very next day a bust is made in Easton. Why wait?
This was an on going investigation that just so happened to end the day after the public began to question the strategy used by the local and state law enforcement.

Now , the real issue to explore is the direct correlation between an increase of illegals and increased heroin use. The poison has roots in the middle east but a majority of the poison is coming in through the southern border. That is a fact



Bernie O'Hare said...

This is a mixed political and social issue. McNeill had DA Jim Martin, a Republican, at his first town hall. He just visited NC to get DA John Morganelli, a Dem, to offer his support. He is very sincere in his desire to combat this problem, and so are Martin and Morganelli. This has touched their lives. You don't know what you are talking about, which explains why you remain anonymous

Anonymous said...

Anon: 3:45 complains about Rep Dan McNeil making it a "political issue". Then uses it a few sentences later to make it a conservative political issue. People in glass houses...

Bernie O'Hare said...


Anonymous said...

One very big problem with the way this epidemic is being handled is that it is a disease that causes mental health issues. Those mental health issues cause the addict to become incompetent to the point they don't know they need help. Even when court orders are written they are not being enforced and people are still dying. A simple enforcement of a urine screen could have recently saved an addicts life but no one enforced it. It was like a big joke to everyone that he kept refusing to go for them. What were we told he is a competent grown man. Really? Was he competent because he is now a statistic? The system isn't working when it is allowing people to sign themselves in and out of rehabs continuously, repeatedly do 30 days and they just keep getting worse. There is a huge problem with all this coddling. Yes it is a disease (A MENTAL HEALTH ILLNESS) and most of these people end up not being able to take care of themselves so why are they not being forced to stay and get the proper treatment? Why are they not getting the proper mental health assistance they need while they are in these rehabs? And why is the first thing they teach and addict that they are an addict? They are so much more than that. They are people with families and children, goals, hopes and dreams. Why don't they start addressing some of those things rather then grilling in their heads they are just addicts.