Lehigh Valley

Local leaders push for new legislation on prescription drugs

Local leaders push for new legislation on prescription drugs

EASTON, Pa. - Government officials in Northampton County are pushing new federal legislation to tackle what they're calling a major local problem: prescription drug addiction.

According to Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Pennsylvania has the third highest heroin abuse rate in the country.

The goal of this new bill is to fight prescription drug addiction before it turns into heroin addiction.

Tyler Rogers isn't just the Executive Director of Safe Harbor, a transitional homeless shelter in Easton, he's also a former prescription drug addict.

"I was 19 years old, I had a back surgery. I got prescribed Oxycontin. I thought I was taking what was prescribed by a doctor. A couple years later the doctor keeps giving the medication and I'm fully addicted physically to it," said Rogers.

Rogers says 60 percent of all heroin addicts started on prescription drugs.

He and his staff members say one of their biggest challenges at Safe Harbor is drug abuse education.

Jeffrey Poch, Safe Harbor Case Manager said, "Medications are left out for kids to get and I think they just start using them for fun and I don't think they realize the repercussions of a prescription drug."

That's where the new Increasing the Safety of Prescription Drug Use Act comes in.

It's a proposed federal bill backed by Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey.

He, along with county and local officials, pushed for the bill Friday at the Northampton County Courthouse in Easton, a city with it's share of prescription drug abuse.

Easton Mayor Sal Panto said prescription drug related arrests have spiked over the last 12 to 15 months.

"We see continued use by an upper level economic strata, people who are going to this type of problem because of because of Vicodin and Oxycontin that they're prescribed," said Panto. "These are tough drugs."

The bill has three main goals: to increase and improve Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs to track prescriptions and refills, to increase the number of medication disposal sites, and to increase education for the general public and medical professionals.

Senator Casey said, "We want to make sure those who are prescribing these opioids are getting the benefit of the most current medical education."

This bill still has a long way to go before it becomes law. It still has to pass through both the House and the Senate.

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