DeWine: Communities key in combating drug crime

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By Ashley Luthern


The solutions to combating crime stemming from drug addiction must come from local engagement, said the Ohio attorney general Thursday.

“Only when local communities come together is there success,” said Attorney General Mike DeWine.

DeWine was part of a panel of law enforcement, lawmakers and drug and alcohol and drug treatment experts who came together in Boardman for the Law Enforcement and Addiction Summit. The summit was sponsored by Meridian Community Care and Boardman police.

“When I was a county prosecutor in the ’70s, heroin was confined to our major cities. Now, it’s in every county and community,” DeWine said.

Although the attorney general highlighted the importance of local stakeholders coming together, he also said his office has been cracking down on “doctors who are nothing more than drug dealers” and write unnecessary prescriptions for money.

So far, 14 medical licenses in Ohio have been revoked because of the effort, he said.

There also was discussion about the connection between mental-health illness and substance abuse, particularly when it comes to housing those who have been arrested in the Mahoning County jail.

“We’d like to have [treatment] staff in the facility to make assessments and to get them out of facilities so they’re not in jail too long,” said Maj. Alki Santamas, who oversees the county jail.

The jail is still not fully open — about 200 beds are closed — but the portion that remains houses about 480 prisoners on a daily basis, and of them, about 80 are on psychotropic drugs at any given time, he said.

“The jail is becoming the new Woodside [Receiving Hospital] and we don’t have the expertise to deal with it,” Santamas said.

Woodside was a state mental-health hospital that closed in 1996.

“We do have people with substance-abuse problems come into the jail, and we have to deal with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we’re working on getting them where they need to be,” the major said.

Larry Moliterno, Meridian chief executive and a Boardman Township trustee, said that many individuals need residential facilities, instead of outpatient care, but the number of those facilities continues to decline because of funding cuts.

“The funding cuts also affect the middle class or working class people who are employed but not able to get treatment because their insurance doesn’t cover it,” he said.

In his role as a trustee, Moliterno said rebuilding the police department’s diversion program, thanks to passage of a 2011 police levy, will play a huge role in helping guide people to treatment centers and other resources. He said the board also plans to develop a secure 24-hour drop-off point for prescription drugs at the government center.

Boardman police Chief Jack Nichols added to that and said he would like to see a policy created that mandates those arrested and their families be provided addiction-resource materials, just as officials are required to distribute victim’s rights information in all cases.

“It’s a work in progress,” he said.

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