MANSFIELD -- Opioids, specifically fentanyl, are not going away anytime soon, members of law enforcement said Tuesday at the 33rd annual METRICH meeting inside the historic, former Ohio State Reformatory.
In fact, statistics reveal that fentanyl-related deaths increased more than nine times from 2013 to 2017, said guest speaker Michael Gray.
METRICH, a group of 48 agencies in 10 mid-Ohio counties working to remove drugs and firearms on a daily basis from local communities, held its annual meeting to review 2019 and plan for 2020 and 2021. With three months left in the calendar, METRICH has conducted 411 search warrants so far in 2019. The yearly average was 690 over the previous years.
Mansfield Police Department Assistant Chief Joe Petrycki shared highlights of the largest drug task force in Ohio, recalling the capture of seven pounds of meth and 788 prescription pills from Knox County. He also noted the seizure of 600 grams of marijuana and $18,000 from Ashland County, and recalled the 43 federal indictments and 36 local charges in a Feb 28. drug sweep in Richland County.
"If people think we are out here goofing off ... ," the MPD's assistant chief said, "they are clearly out there doing work."
Tony Tambasco, director of the Mansfield Police Forensic Science Laboratory, gave his annual update of drugs and testing. He agreed with Gray, saying opioids are not going away.
"This is just getting ridiculous," he said of the amount of heroin and fentanyl cases he and his team have tested. "Those drugs are not going down. They are holding their own."
He showed charts depicting annual case reports over the past 20 years of cocaine,
"Cocaine is not going away. It is very much still going strong," he said.
He also shared a 20-year report of heroin.
"You may think it's going down," he said. "Absolutely not. Obviously, what we are dealing with fentanyl over the last seven years, it's continuing on its way."
Mansfield Police Chief and METIRCH project director Keith Porch began the meeting by setting goals and expectations for the future. He said he wanted METRICH to meet or exceed the three-year average for search warrants, heroin removals and demand reduction (public's need for illegal drugs).
Counties included in METRICH are Ashland, Richland, Crawford, Knox, Seneca, Marion, Morrow, Huron, Hancock, and Wyandot.
Thus far, the 10-county team has removed 2,427 grams of heroin equaling 109 percent of the average of three years (2208 grams), Porch reported.
Gray, the chief executive officer of Actus Analytical, delivered a passionate speech about how scary fentanyl is to the community. His daughter, Amanda Gray died of fentanyl poisoning at age 24.
"Fentanyl is cheaper to make, acquire, ship, and is more potent than the other opioids," Gray said. "It is the deadliest opioid ever. It's super-strength makes dosage hard."
He suggested law enforcement focus on keeping opioids off the streets in local communities and hinted at what a tragedy it would be if they became more normalized and sold in drug stores.