City, county officials work together to fight heroin problem

Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop announced a plan during his Tuesday night State of the City Address to further unite the efforts of the Columbus Police Department (CPD) and the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office to combat the supply of drugs, specifically heroin, in Bartholomew County.

CPD Chief Jon Rohde says that his department and the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office signed a Memorandum of Understanding earlier this week that will coordinate a Heroin Overdose Response Initiative within Bartholomew County. He says that the purpose of this agreement is to maximize inter-agency cooperation by “establishing consistency among heroin overdose investigation protocols and facilitating intelligence gathering and sharing between the agencies.”

City officials say that this initiative will take much work. Mayor Lienhoop stated, “as we strive to decrease the drug supply in our community, we will continue to partner with other law enforcement entities, health care professionals and other stakeholders to achieve this mission.” He described the Heroin Overdose Response Initiative as a “proactive step to aggressively investigate situations that are likely to help law enforcement identify, target, arrest and assist in the prosecution of individuals and organizations responsible for distributing heroin and other controlled substances in Bartholomew County.”

Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers has been hammering the importance of getting the county’s drug problem under control for some time. In fact, that was one of foundations in his campaign to become Sheriff. Myers said, “Since day one, my focus for the Sheriff’s Office has been on the importance of partnership and cooperation among all law enforcement agencies because, by working together, I knew we could improve our ability to better serve Bartholomew County.” The Sheriff added, “Just as we partnered with CPD and the Prosecutor’s Office in a unique collaboration to establish the Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team (JNET), the Sheriff’s Office and Columbus Police are now partnering in a Heroin Overdose Response Initiative that will be another collaboration not to be underestimated.”

Mayor Lienhoop and Chief Rohde both stated that the community’s drug issues are tied-up in supply and demand. During his State of the City Address, the Mayor noted that, like in the legal economy, demand also dictates supply when it comes to drugs. Lienhoop said that while law-enforcement has been concentrating on suppliers, it’s time to do more to put a dent in the demand for drugs. Rohde says that police will continue to go after suppliers. Mayor Lienhoop indicated that efforts will get underway to target the addicts that make up the demand. He noted that there are too few resources available to help those addicts who want to turn their lives around.

City and county officials stress that even though this new partnership is off to a good start, results won’t be immediately evident. “Change will not happen overnight,” said Mayor Lienhoop, who noted that there is much hard work ahead in fighting the area’s drug problem. Despite the resources need, he says that this is a battle worth fighting, and winning.