Sheriff’s Office to hire coordinator to track heroin
— 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
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.”
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.