Fairfield County Sheriff Dave Phalen said he is ready to take on central Ohio's heroin epidemic with a new Overdose Response Team.
Speaking at a Jan. 25 community forum at Canal Winchester's Frances Steube Community Center devoted to discussions about the issue, Phalen said the team will respond once an overdose is reported.
"We're going to try to help intervene," he said. "We're going to get them some medical help, get them to treatment, and then try to find out where their suppliers are."
Phalen said the team should be fully implemented within the next 90 days.
He also said his office plans to hold more community discussions about the opioid epidemic.
Phalen said the opioid problem has reached Canal Winchester -- and so have related problems with crime.
"Seventy-five percent of the theft-related offenses where we have burglaries, shoplifting, homes broken into, are done to support drug habits," he said.
New information from state officials last week says Ohioans are getting fewer prescriptions for painkillers. Data show there were 20 percent fewer pills sold in 2016 than in 2012. Still, more than 3,000 Ohioans died from overdoses last year.
Fairfield County law enforcement officials said Canal Winchester isn't the epicenter of the heroin nightmare in central Ohio, but drugs are there.
Officers say they've noticed an increased use of a different drug over the last several months, Gabapentin.
According to the website WebMD, Gabapentin is used with other medications to prevent and control seizures.
It also is used to relieve nerve pain in adults who develop shingles, a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. Gabapentin is known as an anticonvulsant or antiepileptic drug.
"It's difficult to get out once they start becoming addicted to these drugs," Phalen said.
In addition to Phalen, speakers at the forum included Canal Winchester Mayor Michael Ebert and Dennis Lowe of the Fairfield-Athens-Hocking Major Crime Unit.
Canal Winchester City Councilwoman Bobbie Mershon also attended and said the presentations helped her learn about "the different new drugs that are out there and how very addictive they are."
"It's all over Ohio," Canal Winchester resident Beverly Martin said. "Lives are being destroyed and I just think we've got to find ways to prevent as well as rehabilitate."
The idea of more efforts devoted to dealing with the problem seemed to give parents at the forum some comfort. Those parents said they now have a better understanding of what to look for and how to spot a problem.
"We have a serious epidemic, but good things are being done," Martin said.