LUCAS COUNTY (WTOL) - Drugs are a growing issue across the county, but a study shows Ohio has more opioid overdose deaths than any other state.
Ohio accounts for seven percent of the nation's opioid overdoses with 2,106, while California comes in a close second with just over 2,000. New York comes in third per a 2014 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
When you look at heroin overdose deaths specifically you see Ohio tops the nation with 1,208 deaths, 50% more than the second highest state, which is New York.
"We know so many people that have lost loved ones," explained Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp. "We know so many people that have lost their brothers, their sisters, their sons, or their daughters. It's about human beings and saving lives and that is the most important thing, it's not about the stats."
With Ohio leading the nation in overdose deaths, local enforcement agencies like the Lucas County Sheriff's Office are changing how they handle the drug problem. The department created D.A.R.T about two years ago. The Drug Abuse Response Team started with two officers and now has 20.
"It's costly," explained Sheriff Tharp. "It takes a lot of man power, it takes a lot of dedication, but we see other police departments, law enforcement agencies doing that throughout the United States, and it needs to be done. These people need help. They need to be picked up out of the neighborhoods and taken right to detox."
While enforcement is important, it's not the only way officers are responding to the epidemic of drugs in our neighborhoods. He says the community needs education along with treatment, intervention and prevention.
"We can't try to outsmart our common sense. And what our common sense tells us is that we have to take the dealers off the street. We have to stop the drugs from coming in," said Sheriff Tharp. "We have to stop people from using and that's through education, and we have to help those people that are sick."
The Kaiser Family Foundation study did show that while there is still a concern for semisynthetic opioids like oxycodone, Ohio has just 618 to the national high in California at 1,047. And when it comes to methadone, Ohio has the tenth highest total of overdoses at 107.