June 25, 2016

Mostly clear

Drug task force: Rise in heroin use ‘outrageous’

MEDINA — Medina County agencies are seeing a significant increase in heroin-related calls and cases, officials said.

“Heroin abuse has become outrageous all across the country,” said Gary Hubbard, director of the Medina County Drug Task Force. “Medina County is no different.”

He said about a third of the cases the task force handles involve heroin or some other opiate. Another third involves prescription pills, and the rest includes every other kind of drug.

Last year, the task force handled 245 investigations. Of those, 48 were heroin-related.

Hubbard said he couldn’t provide data on previous years because a change in the way agents keep records makes comparisons inaccurate.

“I’ve been here for three years, and I can tell you it’s increased tremendously,” he said. “It’s partly because we’re focusing more on heroin than other drugs because of an increased number of deaths related to it.”

Hubbard complained he couldn’t provide estimations on heroin-related treatment because hospitals refuse to give him the data, citing federal privacy laws.
He said task force agents have found that Akron is the big source for heroin.

“We’re trying to attack the source,” he said.

Those dealers get the drugs from major drug hubs like Detroit, which draw their supplies largely from Mexico, he said.

Task force agent Tadd Davis said heroin has grown in prevalence because of the economics of the drug trade.

“Just like anything, the more of it that becomes available, the less expensive it gets,” Davis said. “It’s gotten real, real cheap.”

The task force isn’t the only agency seeing more heroin users. Medina County Job and Family Services also has seen a spike.

“Over the last year or two, we’ve seen a significant increase in heroin and opiate involvement in child welfare cases,” JFS Director Mead Wilkins said.

He said about half of the approximately 550 yearly cases the agency investigates include a parent or teenager using opiates, and most of the opiates are heroin.

In the child welfare cases, Wilkins said the agency takes the children into custody. One of the problems they’re facing, though, is the children turning 18 and being released and becoming addicted to the drug, he said.

Last week, the agency had its first mother-daughter pair addicted to opiates, he said.

“It’s just becoming a new problem of high magnitude that’s very hard to fix,” Wilkins said. “Getting off of it is the other big problem.”

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.

Nick Glunt About Nick Glunt

Nick Glunt primarily covers courts and crime in Medina County. He served The Gazette from September 2012 to December 2015. Contact him at (330) 721-4048 or via email at nglunt@medina-gazette.com.