Sher­iff’s Of­fice to hire co­or­di­na­tor to track heroin

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By CARL HAMILTON

ca­hamil­ton@ce­cil­whig.com

— The Ce­cil County Sher­iff’s Of­fice plans to hire a heroin co­or­di­na­tor within the next few weeks to give it, as well as other agen­cies here, one more way to com­bat the on­go­ing heroin epi­demic, ac­cord­ing to CCSO of­fi­cials.

Sher­iff Scott Adams re­ported that his agency is among 18 sher­iff’s of­fices in Mary­land that ap­plied for and re­ceived a one-year grant through the Gover­nor’s Of­fice of Crime Con­trol & Pre­ven­tion to pay for the new civil­ian po­si­tion, which will be filled by a per­son who will serve as the clear­ing­house of heroin-re­lated in­tel­li­gence in Ce­cil County.

CCSO’s state grant is for ap­prox­i­mately $50,000 and it pre­dom­i­nantly will cover the salary of the yet-to-be hired heroin co­or­di­na­tor — job in­ter­views have been con­ducted — and some equip­ment that will be used in the job.

“This will give us one more tool to use in our battle against heroin and heroin ad­dic­tion,” Adams said, list­ing fa­tal over­doses, home­less­ness and crime, specif­i­cally rob­beries, bur­glar­ies and thefts, as some of the prob­lems caused by the drug. “Ob­vi­ously, (heroin) drives most of the crime in the county.”

The heroin co­or­di­na­tor will col­lect heroin-re­lated in­for­ma­tion by comb­ing through ar­rest records, call-for-ser­vice re­ports and other law en­force­ment doc­u­ments and by speak­ing with of­fi­cers and de­tec­tives about cases they have or are

ELK­TON

han­dling, ac­cord­ing to Lt. Michael Holmes, a CCSO spokesman, not­ing that the heroin co­or­di­na­tor will in­dex in­ter­a­gency in­for­ma­tion.

The in­for­ma­tion gath­ered by the heroin co­or­di­na­tor — in­clud­ing heroin ar­rests and over­doses — will be an­a­lyzed, com­piled in var­i­ous ways and en­tered into Case Ex­plorer, a fed­eral law en­force­ment data­base, Holmes said.

Po­lice in Ce­cil County and else­where will be able to ac­cess the data­base sta­tis­tics and other in­for­ma­tion sup­plied by the heroin co­or­di­na­tor, which will al­low them to de­tect trends, he added.

Holmes re­ported that, due to their day-to-day re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, deputies and de­tec­tives do not have the time to han­dle the data gath­er­ing and in­for­ma­tion dis­pers­ing that will be per­formed by the heroin co­or­di­na­tor.

“The heroin co­or­di­na­tor will be track­ing the lo­ca­tions of heroin over­doses and heroin ar­rests, for ex­am­ple. The heroin co­or­di­na­tor also will be track­ing the dif­fer­ent types of pack­ag­ing that the heroin comes in and the places that it is com­ing from,” Holmes said.

In ad­di­tion, the heroin co­or­di­na­tor will doc­u­ment the form in which con­fis­cated heroin is found, which could shed light on whether the ad­dict or user planned to in­ject, snort or smoke the drug, he noted.

The data sup­plied by the heroin co­or­di­na­tor will help CCSO and other law en­force­ment agen­cies pin­point geo­graphic ar­eas that need more fo­cus by patrol deputies and in­ves­ti­ga­tors, Holmes said. It also could de­ter­mine how in­ves­ti­ga­tions should be con­duced and pa­trols should be per­formed in those places, he added.

It also would al­low law en­force­ment of­fi­cials to swiftly re­lease pub­lic alerts if a type of heroin that has been cut with a po­ten­tially deadly chem­i­cal, drug or other mix­ing agent comes into Ce­cil County, in­clud­ing fen­tanyl, an opi­oid many times more po­tent than mor­phine that is in­creas­ingly be­ing found in Mary­land over­dose deaths.

Adams re­ported that in­ves­ti­ga­tors would pur­sue mur­der charges against a drug dealer if they can connect him or her to the heroin that caused a fa­tal over­dose. Adams said he be­lieves the in­for­ma­tion sup­plied by the heroin co­or­di­na­tor would make it eas­ier for in­ves­ti­ga­tors to link drug deal­ers to the heroin they sold.

Capt. Joseph Zurolo, an Elk­ton Po­lice De­part­ment spokesman, said the “stream­lined” re­lease of heroin-re­lated in­for­ma­tion would play a “vi­tal role” in the over­all ef­fort of law en­force­ment to battle heroin traf­fick­ing and re­lated crimes.

“This will pro­vide in­for­ma­tion across ju­ris­dic­tional bound­aries. It will al­low for a more co­or­di­nated law en­force­ment re­sponse. The in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing drug traf­fick­ing will be put out there more ef­fi­ciently and quickly,” Zurolo said, adding, “All law en­force­ment agen­cies can ac­cess the in­for­ma­tion.”

Zurolo also be­lieves the in­for­ma­tion sup­plied by the heroin co­or­di­na­tor would make it eas­ier for in­ves­ti­ga­tors to track “the dif­fer­ent paths the drugs are tak­ing to get into our com­mu­ni­ties,” he said.

The in­for­ma­tion from the heroin co­or­di­na­tor would be shared with other agen­cies, in­clud­ing the Ce­cil County Health De­part­ment, be­cause heroin ad­dic­tion cre­ates a va­ri­ety of health and so­cial prob­lems, ac­cord­ing to Holmes.

“Dif­fer­ent data will be shared with dif­fer­ent agen­cies,” Holmes said, not­ing, for ex­am­ple, health de­part­ment of­fi­cials might be in­ter­ested in in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing over­doses and the types of heroin con­fis­cated by deputies.

Ken Collins, di­vi­sion di­rec­tor of CCHD’s Ad­dic­tion Ser­vices, be­lieves a heroin co­or­di­na­tor would help his di­vi­sion bet­ter treat ad­dicts.

Be­tween July 1 and Sept. 30 — the first quar­ter of of fis­cal year 2017 — 274 peo­ple were ad­mit­ted to sub­stance use dis­or­der treat­ment at the Ce­cil County Health De­part­ment, he said. Of those, Collins added, 55 per­cent of them — or ap­prox­i­mately 135 peo­ple — had a pri­mary opi­oid use dis­or­der, which in­cludes heroin, pre­scrip­tion painkillers and other opi­ates.

“Data has tremen­dous pub­lic health ben­e­fits. Timely and ad­di­tional lo­cal data can help all of us bet­ter tar­get re­sources and proac­tively ad­dress trends re­lated to the cur­rent pre­scrip­tion opi­oid and heroin epi­demic,” Collins com­mented.

The up-to-date in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the heroin co­or­di­na­tor, par­tic­u­larly as it re­lates to heroin “hotspot” ar­eas in Ce­cil County, also would help Ad­dic­tion Ser­vices work­ers pin­point their ef­forts.

“The ex­panded in­for­ma­tion can sug­gest where re­sources are needed most and help us con­tinue to out­reach to com­mu­ni­ties where needs are great­est, in­clud­ing pro­vid­ing over­dose recog­ni­tion and re­sponse train­ing, help­ing those in need of treat­ment to ac­cess and en­gage ser­vices, and of­fer­ing re­cov­ery sup­port to in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies,” Collins said.

It also would help health de­part­ment of­fi­cials gain more in­sight into where money should be spent to com­bat heroin ad­dic­tion.

“The ad­di­tional lo­cal data could also help us advocate for in­creased state or fed­eral fund­ing to aug­ment re­sources,” Collins said.

In ad­di­tion, the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the heroin co­or­di­na­tor would help the health de­part­ment bet­ter ed­u­cate the pub­lic about heroin ad­dic­tion and gauge the ex­ist­ing ef­forts, Collins noted.

“The in­for­ma­tion can also help us in­crease aware­ness of the sub­stance use dis­or­ders and the opi­ate epi­demic, as well as mea­sure and com­mu­ni­cate progress — progress pre­vent­ing opi­ate over­doses, treat­ing ad­dic­tion, and ex­pand­ing re­cov­ery sup­port,” he said.

He added, “We’re ex­tremely sup­port­ive of the ef­forts of Sher­iff Adams, Chief Deputy (Ger­ald) Wid­does, and Lt. Michael Holmes. The Sher­iff’s of­fice has been a vi­tal and val­ued com­mu­nity part­ner with many or­ga­ni­za­tions in com­bat­ing the cur­rent pre­scrip­tion opi­oid and heroin epi­demic.”

CE­CIL WHIG FILE PHOTO

New state grant fund­ing will pay for a co­or­di­na­tor to track heroin busts and sales in the county to aid in­ves­ti­ga­tors’ ef­forts to dis­man­tle il­le­gal drug sales.

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