The opioid problem tearing apart families from all walks of life in Ohio tops the priority list for state law enforcement officials.
State Attorney General Mike Dewine wants all first responders, including police officers and sheriff’s deputies to carry the over-dose fighting drug Narcan.
In Pickerington, the community’s heartache from loved ones dying from drug overdoses received national attention from CBS’s 60 Minutes. Pickerington Police Sgt. Abe Haroon has been on patrol for 9 years.
The below transcript is an automated transcript of the above conversation. Please excuse minor typos and errors.
Debbie Holmes: In your time out here what have you seen regarding drug cases have they become more frequent?
Abe Haroon: I have seen not a sharp increase but a steady increase in narcotic related offenses and activity within the city.
DH: Is there are a number you can put on that?
AH: Not necessarily it's something that would vary from week to week. If I was to look at the week that I had this week, this being my fifth day of being on patrol, out of those five days we've probably had three or four drug arrests just in my shift alone.
DH: So is that about normal is that much higher than nine years ago?
AH: It is higher than what it was nine years ago and it does seem like it's kind of like a normality for the amount of drug stops and related offenses we are having.
DH: I understand that there's more thefts today in Pickerington because of the drug issues.
AH: Yes. Thefts have been a problem for a number of years here in the city and I'm sure that most communities within Central Ohio are also experiencing the same thing. The underlying issue with those thefts is that it's something that's used to fuel the habit of the drug addiction within the community.
DH: What is your protocol than on how to respond to a drug overdose call?
AH: When I respond to a drug overdose call is something that's what's known as an emergency response. I would go there lights and sirens, and the reason so is that because ultimately my goal is to get there and not to arrest or to detain the individual but to save that individual's life. So at that point when we get those calls I know that seconds matter and my goal is to make sure first and foremost that individual is going to be safe and get them transport for medical care.
DH: Now you've been out on some cases where the person actually did die.
AH: Yes I've ran into two service calls my own where individuals have passed away as a result of drug overdoses. I'm in addition to that I've heard a lot of other officers that have also experienced the same.
DH: The state attorney general Mike De Wine has proposed that he would like to see all police departments be able to use Narcan, the drug that would have a significant impact on people that are overdosing to get them out of that.
AH: I definitely see the merit in using it, but I would also say that it would need to go hand-in-hand with experience and education when it would come time to administer a drug like that.
DH: So you think then that officers would need a lot more training than to be able to use it?
AH: Yeah, because the officer is going to need to call when that's the time to use it. Has the individual overdosed to the point that they're no longer vitally there. Is there any vitals at all that exist and then what type of overdose is it? Is it something that Narcan is physically going to work for?
DH: What you think about the national attention this community has gotten then about the heroin problem and drug addiction?
AH: People that are well known come from this community and, as a result something happens to him then it kind of comes back on this community. In addition, to that we have a lot of great programs in the community like Tyler's Light or PATCH (Parents Addressing Teen Challenges) and these groups are wanting to talk about the problem.
They're standing up and they are standing out and they want to say hey 'there is a problem, hey 'we have a solution,' and hey 'we want to fix it.'
DH: So you think attention then can help then?
AH: Yeah absolutely. But it needs that attention at the at the family level if there's there's been a lot of times when I've responded service calls and a family member knows there something wrong but they just don't do nothing about it. And that could be devastating for that family if it's not corrected.