LUCAS COUNTY (WTOL) - The Lucas County Sheriff's Office is increasing its efforts to sweep the streets of heroin and other opioids this year by having more Narcan readily available, starting an education program in schools, and monitoring the sources of where the epidemic is most prevalent.
The Drug Abuse Response Team (D.A.R.T.), a group of more than 20 officers has been leading this initiative. All of their officers are equipped with Narcan and are trained how to use it.
According to the sheriff's office, it's been very effective in saving lives. Since the D.A.R.T program began in 2014, their team has responded to more than 2,000 abuse cases.
Many critics of the drug believe it serves as an enabler to heroin users, but John Tharp, the Lucas County Sheriff, thinks that isn't the case.
"Sometimes people are given Narcan two or three times. And people would ask well why are you still giving it to them? If it was your sister, if she overdosed three times, wouldn't you want her brought back to life, three times? Or your brother or your mother or a family member or loved one, a significant other," he said. "The answer certainly is yes. It's the right thing to do. If we can save lives we need to do that.
The Sheriff's office receives its Narcan from the Lucas County Health Department, but receives its funding from different businesses and organizations that also want to see this problem come to an end. The Maumee Rotary Club donated $5,000 just last week so they could buy more Narcan.
The sheriff said the community collectively hopes for a change and are aiming for a few specific aspect for this year.
"Arrest individuals that are dealing and to get the individuals that are sick and that need assistance and to get them to detox beds. The education is very, very important for us to look at," said Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp.
The sheriff's office is currently working on an educational video they will distribute to schools in the area, not only to educate students, but faculty as well.
"To be able to do an educational component to show how the use of pain killers can lead to heroin or does lead to heroin," he said.
They plan to have that implemented into schools in our area over the next few months. School resource officers are now carrying Narcan as well, but they don't envision using it on students.
According to Sheriff Tharp, the average heroin user is a middle income, 39-year-old white male. Heroin and other opioid use is not an issue for high schoolers at this time, but the education program is aimed at getting ahead of the curve.
On a state level, there has been increased efforts to combat this issue as well.
Governor John Kasich signed a bill into law Wednesday expanding the use of an anti-overdose drug, naloxone, sold as Narcan to schools, homeless shelters, halfway houses and treatment centers, as part of the state's fight against addictions.
Sheriff Tharp said he applauds Governor Kasich's effort and will use it as momentum heading into this year.
Ohio saw a record of 3,050 overdose deaths last year. Many of those deaths were attributed to painkillers and heroin abuse.
Moving forward the Lucas County Sheriff's Office said they will continue to collaborate with police departments and agencies in our area.