MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ohio (WDTN) — The Department of Homeland Security is considering classifying fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction. That designation could help law enforcement disrupt the flow of fentanyl on the black market and keep it from reaching communities. The CNN report has been confirmed by a DHS official.
Health and safety officials on the ground in Montgomery County say any help in this fight is welcome. Chief Deputy Daryl Wilson of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office says, “It’s got danger written all over it. It gets airborne, it gets in your skin, therefore it can affect you.”
The opioid crisis is still having dangerous consequences in the Miami Valley, both for people who have an addiction problem and for those policing the issue. Erik Blaine of the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office says, “There is no safe way to do illegal drugs.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports fentanyl was responsible for 30,000 overdose deaths in 2017, but local officials are seeing a positive trend.
Blaine says, “We have seen a marked increase in awareness of opioids and addictive substances, and we’ve seen a corresponding decrease in the number of overdose deaths.”
And yet: of the 538 autopsies the Coroner’s Office has completed since February 5th, 20% had fentanyl in their system and law enforcement is also seriously impacted.
Chief Deputy Wilson says, “Just this weekend we had a deputy assigned to Harrison Township who was overtaken by what we believe is fentanyl. We had to transport that deputy to the hospital.”
That deputy is ok, but still: Montgomery County officials say federal help would be welcomed.
Erik Blaine says, “We of course need more assistance; we need to raise the education level. But we also need assistance on the crime lab side to make sure we have the tools and people that are necessary to detect these drugs.”
While the Coroner’s Office says overdose deaths are trending down recently, they acknowledged a spike about two weeks ago. They’re hoping that spike is only temporary.