DeWine on opiate addiction: ‘We’re not going to arrest our way out’

columbus ohio heroin opiate addiction summit

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – First News has been following the problem facing law enforcement and health professionals as the number of abuse and overdose cases continues to rise at an alarming rate.

And those numbers are staggering. In 2014, Ohio had the second largest number of overdose deaths in the nation, and more than 1,000 of those overdoses were attributed to heroin alone.

The problem even made the national spotlight on a segment of 60 Minutes. The numbers have not been compiled yet for 2015, but there is concern that they could grow.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine led a statewide emergency meeting to help leaders in Ohio’s counties combat the drug epidemic.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine led a statewide emergency meeting to help leaders in Ohio’s counties combat the drug epidemic.

Coming together to help solve opiate abuse in Ohio, Attorney General Mike DeWine called an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon in the state’s capital, with law enforcement and public safety officials to figure how to get a handle on the problem. More than 800 people attended the day-long event, titled “Ideas that Work – Fighting the Drug Epidemic in Ohio.”

Topics at the meeting included treating drug overdose scenes as crime scenes, using naloxone (Narcan) to save lives, addressing addiction in jails, using Ohio’s Automated Rx Reporting System to find drug dealers and implementing community initiatives to combat the heroin crisis.

“Law enforcement understands we’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” DeWine said. “So now you’re seeing sheriff’s departments, police departments, working to get people into treatment, working to keep them in treatment, working on prevention and education.”

DeWine said the idea of the meeting is for departments to share what is working to combat the problem in the area, so other departments can utilize those ideas as well.

“One of the things I find out traveling the state is communities, they’re really starting to make some progress,” he said.

Jeff Orr, with the Tag Law Enforcement Task Force in Trumbull County, said it is best to educate children about the dangers of drug use early. He believes early education should be the county’s biggest priority.

“I think we really need to focus on prevention so we don’t have that next generation of kids starting on the opiates, pills or heroin,” he said.

DeWine also had an important message for those going through an addition.

“There are people who care about you,” he said. “There are people who value your life. You just have to seek help.”

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