GREENVILLE – “You DO have a connection to someone with a substance abuse issue,” said Darke County Chief Deputy Sheriff Mark Whittaker. Everyone has a relative, a niece, nephew, sister, brother with a drug problem. This is a huge problem. “It’s going to take the whole county, community, city, village, schools… we have a problem here!”
On Jan. 31 Whittaker told local business owners and community leaders at the Darke County Chamber of Commerce Ground Hog Day breakfast “we have never seen drugs killing people at the rate they are killing today.”
Whittaker said the drug of choice has moved from prescription drugs to street drugs, such as heroin. And they are killing people. In Darke County 77 people have died due to drug overdoses since 1996. The list of drugs includes prescription, oxycontin, cocaine, meth, heroin and more.
“But what about the people on disability due to overdose?” he asked. “We resuscitate them, but they have brain damage. It does exist… we’ve seen it.” Society then has the expense of taking care of them.
Noting 60 percent of the jail population is there due to drug charges or drug related issues, Whittaker said drugs are not going away. “We are not going to eliminate drugs,” he said, adding it seems to be a cultural issue in today’s society. “We have to work together to figure out how we’re going to manage it.”
For instance, kids understand the drug culture mentality. “We have a pill for everything.” The problem is the kids crush the pill; that kills the time release mechanism.
“They don’t understand what they’re doing,” Whittaker said. And some will OD (overdose).
When law enforcement asks substance abusers where they started, the answer is always marijuana! Then they move to prescription drugs, then heroin. “There used to be a stigma… ‘no needle in my arm’… no longer. That’s going away.” Whittaker added it’s easier to get heroin than marijuana. He noted meth is coming back because it has a stronger, better ‘high.’
Heroin, however, is easier to get because it’s cheap, he said. “You can get a cap of heroin here for $20. It’s $6 in Dayton.” Addicts drive there, buy enough for themselves and sell the rest at a profit.
He noted meth and heroin are by far the worst of the drugs being abused. One or two times and the person is addicted. Then try to get them to stop. “It’s like me asking you to hold your breath for 15 minutes… you can’t do it, they can’t do it!”
Whittaker reiterated this is a problem for everyone. “You have a drug free policy?” Your employees have relatives with drug problems, he said. “You have to deal with it! I assure you drug addiction is a problem you have to deal with.
“We’re all stakeholders in this and we can’t ‘arrest’ ourselves out of it.”
Whittaker said the county needs inpatient services. One of the biggest challenges is education: community leaders, parents, youth… “law enforcement needs to be back in our schools.”