Published in the Morning Call

June 11, 2006

A glimmer of hope for a drug and alcohol detoxification center in Lehigh County

One of the eulogists at Dorothy Roth's funeral on June 1 reminded mourners how Mrs. Roth, who died May 30 at age 83, had dedicated so much of her life to unpopular causes including treatment for people addicted to drug and alcohol. It was a source of great frustration to the tireless Mrs. Roth, and to many others, that no facility to provide those services exists in the immediate Lehigh Valley. Unless they have been imprisoned, addicts here must go to treatment centers in Montgomery or Berks counties, or even farther away.

That is why it stirred those who had gathered in Allentown that day to pay tribute to Mrs. Roth to hear that there is reason to think the situation may be improving. Officials of Lehigh County and Sacred Heart Hospital recently began meeting to explore a partnership. Talks center around a drug and alcohol detoxification and treatment center in the Allentown hospital excellent news, indeed, though most details remain to be resolved.

 

Not all alcoholics and drug addicts need ''detox'' before entering a treatment center. A center did exist at another location in Allentown until 1996. So, for about a decade, residents of the Lehigh Valley have had no choice but to travel to Bucks, Montgomery and Chester counties to get help. There is no way to know how many alcoholics and drug addicts have delayed or decided against detox and treatment because of the distance; an addict certainly is more apt to get help when it is readily available.

Lehigh County officials appeared to be close to securing a new site in 2004. The county had made arrangements with White Deer Run, an agency that operates drug and alcohol clinics statewide, for a center in Lynn Township. But the hopes of those who work in the field of drug and alcohol treatment were dashed by a zoning controversy and an unsuccessful court appeal.

Now, a partnership with the county and Sacred Heart makes sense. Allentown is at the epicenter of the Valley's population. A hospital would not pose any zoning issues. Finally, if and when this needed clinic opens, the sign placed out front should read, ''The Dorothy M. Roth Detox and Treatment Center.''