Trumbull Sheriff's ideas on refocusing opioid fight - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Trumbull Sheriff's ideas on refocusing opioid fight

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WARREN, Ohio -

The heroin and opioid epidemic have been at least a four-year fight in the Mahoning Valley, and authorities at the Trumbull County Sheriff's Department say it isn't getting better; the death count proves it's getting worse.

21 News sat down with the Trumbull County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Joe Dragovich who believes it's time to rethink the approach to fighting this drug war.

Trumbull County is on a deadly path in 2017 and to date, it's expected to surpass the number of opioid/heroin deaths this year compared to last.

Nationwide in 2016, 64,000 people died as part of the epidemic.

"If that was 64,000 Americans in one single event in one day the response would be overwhelming to address it and fix it.  It should be the same even if it's happening over a 12-month period," Dragovich said.

Dragovich believes it's time to retool and refocus the approach to fighting this war on drugs.

He believes it was a mistake for law enforcement officials and others to say, "We can't arrest our way out of this problem."  Instead, he feels jail in some cases could prove to be the best detox, a way to keep drugs out of the hands of addicts, and in some cases may have some asking for help.

"You've got to think of it in terms of what is the role of law enforcement.  We arrest people. That's what we do.  So if we're going to sit down at the table with you and be part of the solution, one of the first things that's said cannot be, 'Oh by the way, what you do, what you bring to the table isn't part of the solution.'  You can't arrest your way out of this problem," Dragovich tells 21 News.

The Trumbull County Chief Deputy would also like to see a drug trafficker registry that is similar to a sex offender registry.  

When someone is a convicted drug trafficker and is released from prison they have to register with the sheriff's department in the county where they live.

Dragovich said, "We want to keep our thumb on you.  We have to know where you're living, what you're driving, what phones you have, where you're working if you're going to travel out of state.  And you're either going to have to participate and find a way to contribute to society and rehabilitate yourself and live under those parameters or you're going to say it's too tough you're going to go somewhere else."

The ideas out of the Trumbull County Sheriff's Office don't end there.  Dragovich believes the law needs to change so that anyone caught with fentanyl is charged with the most serious felony.

"There is absolutely no reason for anybody to be in possession of fentanyl on the street.  So anybody engaged in that either on the trafficker end or the user end, there should be consequences for that because that's killing people," Dragovich said.

The Trumbull Sheriff's Department is also worried about bonds that allow traffickers to be out on the street still dealing drugs as they wait to go to trial, and short sentences that allow them back into society.

Dragovich tells 21 News, "You can pull people out of the game, get them off of the streets, but if the doors just open to put them back out there, you're ineffective.  If it's a war, then fight it like a war and fight it to win.  If it's a crisis or an epidemic, then treat it like it is a disaster and put the resources in place and put the law changes in place to address it."

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