Wednesday, January 25, 2017
By Joe Gorman
The police department’s vice squad has added a kit to test for the drug fentanyl because officers have been seeing more and more of it lately.
Lt. Gerard Slattery, who heads up the vice squad, said the kits will be used when officers encounter fentanyl while they are on the street or for any drugs that are taken into evidence. The vice squad also does tests on drugs that are taken by officers in the patrol and other divisions.
Fentanyl is an opiate-based painkiller that is more powerful than heroin and is highly addictive. Heroin addicts have been known to mix fentanyl with heroin. Slattery said he has been running into cases where some dealers sell fentanyl but try to pass it off as heroin,
He said officers are finding the powder fentanyl, not the patch that is prescribed to people for chronic pain,
Trumbull County has been grappling with the fentanyl problem and deaths from overdoses attributed to it for the past couple of years, but Slattery said this is the first time he has seen the drug in Youngstown. He attributed fentanyl for a recent spike in overdose calls the department has had to respond to this month.
“Unfortunately it has made its way into the city,” Slattery said.
Over the past weekend, two people were arrested during separate traffic stops where small amounts of the drug was found. Vice officers serving search warrants investigating drug activity at various drug houses have also found the drug recently, including some Jan. 10 at a home on Eleanor Avenue.
Dr. Joseph Ohr, forensic pathologist for the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office, said recent statistics show a fentanyl death in September, but that is as far back as the official results go right now because of a backlog at the Indianapolis, Ind., facility where blood is sent to be tested.
And that, Dr. Ohr said, is a good way to gauge the opiate problem nationwide. He said the firm separated into testing for forensic and nonforensic cases and the forensic side is swamped with so many cases that it has doubled the turnaround time for test results to come back. Dr. Ohr said typically, it takes two to three weeks for a result to come back. Now, he said, it is taking six weeks, although he expects that time to shrink once they figure out a way to balance the workload.
“It’s an epidemic,” Dr. Ohr said.
City police Chief Robin Lees, who has spent most of his career investigating narcotics cases, said the increase in fentanyl use is typical of trends in the drug trade. He said every few years there is something that comes along that becomes a fad until something else comes along.
Lees said the city is just now starting to see fentanyl despite its use in Trumbull County and elsewhere because of where the city gets its supply of drugs. Lees said Youngstown typically gets drugs from New York City while the surrounding areas get drugs from the southwest, where they cut drugs with fentanyl, so it took awhile for that practice to make its way into the supply of drugs into Youngstown.