HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Southeast Ohio response and law enforcement officials attended an opiate addiction conference Thursday in Huntington, along with West Virginia and Kentucky state and U.S. federal officials, to communicate needs and strategies for combating the growing drug epidemic in Appalachian region.
Of those in attendance were the Gallia County Solicitor Adam Salisbury’s Office, Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood, Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning, Meigs County EMS Director Robbie Jacks and representatives from other agencies in Lawrence County, Scioto County, Kentucky and West Virginia. Also present were the the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
All three state attorneys general were also in attendance, compromised of Ohio’s Mike DeWine, West Virginia’s Patrick Morrissey and Kentucky’s Andy Beshear.
The groups held roundtable discussion centered around three subjects, the first of which focused on Ohio’s recently enacted “Good Samaritan” law. The law states that an individual gains immunity from prosecution if reporting an overdose or they seek assistance with an overdosing victim.
The next topic was law enforcement agencies’ availability and ability to share information to assist sister agencies in investigations crossing jurisdictional borders. According to Salisbury, DeWine spoke of a plan to make information available to local and state police as well as crime labs and EMS workers to consolidate data for agency use through an initiative called the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway. Information gathered from hospitals, without violating federal HIPAA laws, would also assist this effort in tracking overdose trends. Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia reportedly do not have such a system in place.
Salisbury further said conference attendees discussed the necessity of having an information system which could universally allow for law enforcement agencies to access each other’s data to better assist in investigations. While agencies also had working relationships, the addition of an electronic universal database would make agencies’ jobs that much easier. One official at the conference reportedly said a drug trafficker traveling from Huntington or a nearby area could easily cross several state boundaries within a period of a few hours.
Salisbury agreed with the necessity of needing a database system.
Lastly, the roundtable discussed the nature, availability and effectiveness of Suboxone, a prescription medication used to treat opioid addiction. Beshear and other attending law enforcement officials felt Suboxone was effective but was not an all-encompassing answer for opiate addiction. Some agencies reported doctors and companies responsible for “pill mills” were switching up business plans to now sponsor clinics.
According to Salisbury, attendance was unanimous in support of abstinence-based drug court supervision. Courts in Gallia and Meigs counties have used such a model by encouraging offenders to receive injections of Vivitrol, a drug that blocks the effects of opioids. The offenders also receive behavioral therapy.
“It was good to participate with our partners from the tri-state community that are trying to help with this national heroin epidemic that is effecting so many communities,” said Gallia Sheriff Browning. “I appreciate Attorney General DeWine and the others for putting this program together.”
Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood also took in the benefits of the conference.
“This effort that brings the tri-state together is a great accomplishment,” he said. “Our communities must come together and reach goals to protect and save the lives of our citizens.”