Lucas County DART stays positive in uphill heroin battle

Lucas County DART stays positive in uphill heroin battle
(Source: Lucas County Sheriff's Office)
(Source: Lucas County Sheriff's Office)

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - WTOL is taking a week-long look at the heroin epidemic, and the studio's next guest was Lt. Bobby Chromik from Lucas County's DART team.

Getting right down to it, the biggest question is whether or not Lucas County is making any progress in the battle against opioid overdoses.

Chromik knows first-hand how serious of a problem it is, and he's one of many leading the pack.

"It's one of the hugest fights I think we're dealing with as a community overall right now and statewide and nationally," Chromik says. "I think what people don't realize, that they're not just going out and just buying heroin. They're buying pure fentanyl, and they're shooting it up, and they're snorting it, and they're thinking they can take it like a regular heroin dose and it's not."

Although a difficult struggle, Chromik looks at it as even if he saves one parent's family member and a life, that's a win right there.

The DART team is committed to using a new strategy against opioid abuse, realizing these users are sick and don't have control necessarily over their addiction. Chromik wants people to understand why these people don't just get thrown in jail.

However, he knows there are time when the justice system has to be used to his team's advantage.

"We have when there's non-compliance. When they're victimizing the community," Chromik said. "When they're victimizing themselves or their family, and they can't comply with what we're trying to do, which is ultimately help them."

Chromik says this is in the long run is helping the community and hopefully, the right move for the addicts.

"We're trying to save everyone money by not filling up the jail system," he says. "We believe it does work. We have the justice system. We have the drug court, and that's a fantastic tool. But we try to utilize the justice system last. We want them to get help first."

Chromik says the scary part is that for the people who are addicted, their ultimate goal every day is to feel that high.

The question is, how do these people get to that point?

He says a large group of who they deal with are ex-athletes who were injured. They went to a doctor and were prescribed an opiate, and their pain was treated like a symptom.

However, Chromik says opiates shouldn't be taken like antibiotics until they're finished, because that's when people get addicted.

Then he says it's only a matter of time before these people realize one pill is much more expensive than a package of heroin.

Looking at the facts, the problem still seems like an uphill battle.

October saw a record number of overdoses in Lucas County with 247. These numbers don't include deaths or survival rates.

When looking at the numbers, Chromik says the lack of detox beds in the area is a huge problem in being able to get addicts the assistance they need.

"We have 16 beds truly available down on Ashland that we're utilizing, and there are eight additional dual-diagnosis beds down at Rescue Crisis," Chromik said. "We've got about 10,000 addicts in Lucas County. Sixteen beds. You do the math. I think we're kind of in a pickle there."

So after doing the math, that means there are still well over 9,000 addicts out in Lucas County, moving around the community.

"That's one of our biggest fears," says Chromik. "They're overdosing. They're out. We have thefts. People have to get that drug in their system."

Like many others, Chromik knows it's going to take an army to combat the issue at hand, not just local law enforcement.

"It's going to take our religious sectors, our community from business to local government. Everybody coming together," he says. "And we've done that here in Lucas County. That's what makes us unique in the nation. And in our opinion, we're succeeding."

The Lucas County Sheriff's DART team is doing all it can to fight the epidemic. It has gained acclimation from Columbus to Washington D.C., and there are no plans to slow down the work that is being done.

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