Public meeting on drug problem draws large crowd

By Martha B. Jacob –

The Ripley Library hosted a special Drug Forum for the community on Oct. 13 to allow residents to ask questions and hear answers about the ongoing fight against drugs in Brown County.
John Burke, commander of the Brown County Drug and Major Crimes Task Force opened the meeting and spoke briefly about some of the programs already available in the county and the need for more.
“I have been in law enforcement nearly 49 years and am now the director of the Brown County Drug and Major Crimes Task Force since April,” Burke began. “In 2014 and 2015 Brown County achieved the distinction of leading the state of Ohio in non-intentional overdose deaths. So we are about three times the national average.”
He continued, “For many years Montgomery County led that number in Ohio and now Brown County has led for the last two years.”
Burke said it is his goal to get Brown County out of that position. He said the deaths from overdoses would be even higher if it were not for Naloxone (Narcan) in every county.
He said some police departments do not use the product, but it does work.
“There are people have very negative opinions of Narcan,” Burke said. “They believe it enables addiction, and I’ll be honest with you. Twenty or thirty years ago I felt like it was nuts to save these people. But as I matured, and my kids got older, the grandchildren get older and you start thinking…do I want to see one of my kids or grandkids die for the lack of having something sprayed up their nose.”
He went on to say that heroin was a big problem in the United States in the 60’s and 70’s, especially in the inner cities, and it was only about 9% pure. Today’s heroin is between 50 and 60% pure and is now injected and getting more potent every day.
Burke said heroin is everywhere but for some reason, Brown County seems to be a hot spot. Most of it comes from Cincinnati, some from Columbus. But it continues to come.
“A couple months ago the heroin coming out of Cincinnati was cut with fentanyl,” Burke said. “That was a big thing three or four years ago, and now its back. Fentanyl is a legitimate pharmaceutical drug,which comes in a bunch of different ways. One is a lollipop used for breakthrough pain, it’s 100 times more powerful than morphine.
“It can come in a 3-day patch and the other way is if you’ve been put to sleep for surgery. But none of these drugs are what we’re seeing today, but the same potency and cause the same problems.”
He said that people who take heroin are then taking heroin that’s been cut with fentanyl which is a powerful drug. Burke briefly discussed carfentanyl which is used to sedate a rhinoceros or elephant. It is 100 times more powerful than heroin.
Throughout the meeting, several people from the crowd who were former addicts talked openly about successful treatments they had received. They stressed that no one wants to be addicted to heroin, but for whatever reason it happened, but they were worth another chance at a good life.
Throughout the evening Burke said he believes the war against heroin can be won with enforcement, preventive education and rehabilitation.