Athens County Sheriff Speaks Out On State Heroin Plan

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The Ohio Attorney General's office has created a new program to help with the state's heroin problem.

Mike DeWine said in a press conference Monday that if someone doesn't think there's a problem, they're probably in denial.

The Athens County Sheriff's Office says Athens is not in denial of its heroin problem, but says the state funding should go to rehabilitation programs, not a state drug task force.

The Athens County Sheriff has not been shy about his stance on the Ohio Attorney General's statewide plan to end heroin usage.

Pat Kelly said Tuesday on his Facebook page the program duplicates local programs and is a waste of tax dollars.

"Concentrating on one drug is not the answer. It will not work, we need to concentrate on the problem and the problem we're seeing is addiction," said Pat Kelly

Earlier this week, DeWine said the program will allocate one million dollars to investigate, do lab testing for and prosecute heroin cases.

Commander of Athens Narcotics Enforcement Team Jim Heater says locally they've seen a spike in the number of meth labs, not heroin.

The team went from busting five labs over the past 10 years, to busting 25 just this year.

He says their team has been successful without help, and thinks the state program will make local programs suffer.

"Every time they do that they absorb that money somewhere, and they usually cut grants or cut local funding. I don't think that will help us a bit, in fact I think it will hurt us," said Heater.

Update: Heater contacted WOUB with an additional comment Thursday, regarding the state's help with methamphetamine issues. Here is his comment in full:

"In regards to methamphetamine, I wish to clarify that the State of Ohio, specifically BCI&I has bent over backwards to assist us and any local government that I'm aware of that has requested assistance with methamphetamine. BCI&I along with DEA provides all our meth training to us at no cost, and they assist us by providing some gear, and still will come assist us on scene as needed. I just wish to clarify the difference between my comment on the heroin task force, and our methamphetamine program."

DeWine says although they haven't determined where the funding for this plan will come from, it wont come from local sources.

"It all comes from my office. We're going to hire fewer lawyers and hire more agents. This is at no cost to any local Sheriffs or Chief of Police," said DeWine.

DeWine added that just like the heroin problem, this plan will not be temporary.

He says the state hopes to fund this permanently.