Milton Berkes, 90. of Langhorne, a longtime Bucks County Democratic Party chair and a former state lawmaker whose legislation fundamentally changed how Pennsylvania treats addiction, died Friday, April 3, in hospice care in Newtown, Bucks County.

Mr. Berkes died of natural causes, his family said.

A former Philadelphia schoolteacher, Mr. Berkes led the county's Democrats on and off between the 1960s and 1990s. His friend James A. Michener, the Bucks County author, once called Mr. Berkes the "quickest mind" in the county for his political abilities.

But others dubbed Mr. Berkes the "Lower Bucks Strong Man" for the power he held - and the enemies he gained - while serving as both party chairman and a state representative in the late 1960s and early 1970s. By the late 1990s, Mr. Berkes had mellowed, and Sandra Miller, then a Democratic county commissioner, called him a "mensch."

Mr. Berkes' proudest achievement, however, wasn't politics. It was authoring Pennsylvania's 1972 Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Act. The so-called "Berkes bill" redefined drug abuse as a health problem and allowed counties to establish treatment programs with federal money.

Few programs existed at the time, but more than 700 are in operation today.

Other states passed similar laws. But the Berkes bill was "visionary" because it called for government agencies to work together, said Deborah Beck, president of the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania. For instance, the legislation helped bring addiction treatment to inmates and prevention programs to schools.

"The bill reflects the knowledge, which I don't think a lot of people had at the time, that addiction affects almost every entity of government," Beck said.

The law has a long legacy. Following through on Mr. Berkes' vision, State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R., Bucks) authored a 2009 law that elevated the Health Department's Bureau of Drug and Alcohol into a cabinet-level agency.

"He was and continued to be a hero to everyone that fights addiction," DiGirolamo said.

The son of Jewish immigrants who fled the pogroms of Eastern Europe, Mr. Berkes grew up in Philadelphia's Strawberry Mansion section. After graduating from Ben Franklin High School, he joined the Army and served in the Pacific during World War II.

After the war, Mr. Berkes earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Temple University. He taught math and worked as a guidance counselor in the city. His passion for politics bloomed when he and his first wife, Ethel Weintraub, moved to Levittown in the 1950s.

A friend urged Mr. Berkes to run for supervisor in Falls Township, a seemingly impenetrable Republican stronghold. Mr. Berkes knocked on doors, going first to homes of workers at the nearby Fairless Works steel plant. Mr. Berkes didn't drink much. But he was offered a beer at each house.

"I was the first Democrat ever elected in that township," Mr. Berkes said later. "And it was by knocking on doors and talking to people."

Mr. Berkes is survived by his second wife, Phyllis; daughters Marcy Lutzker and Eileen Neff; sons Alan and Howard; stepsons Brad and Jeff Shapiro; 11 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren. Ethel Berkes, from whom he was divorced, died in 2014.

A memorial service was held Monday, April 6, during which he was honored by the Jewish War Veterans and family members who wore campaign buttons from his vast collection.