Ohio Equips Counties to Fight Drug Trafficking

Last year, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine created the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council to help his administration address the prevalence of substance abuse in the state. The organization comprised representatives of the government, the private sector, law enforcement, churches, schools, and hospitals. The RecoveryOhio Advisory Council was responsible for devising recommendations for improving access to addiction treatment, developing intervention programs in schools, enhancing outreach to minority communities, veterans, and the elderly, and facilitating cooperation between local, state, and federal initiatives to fight drug trafficking.

To achieve these objectives, the Governor also asked the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council to recommend appropriations in the state budget. Consequently, Ohio now has a RecoveryOhio Law Enforcement Fund which began to disperse over $2 million in grants to 27 anti-narcotics task forces across the state on February 3.

Ohio’s task force officers work day and night to identify and arrest the drug traffickers who are fueling addiction. These grants will help local authorities continue this important work, as well as expand law enforcement’s role in preventing substance abuse through prevention, education, and proactive outreach.

- Mike DeWine, Governor of Ohio

Ohio Task Force Grants

The 27 task forces which received grants from the RecoveryOhio Law Enforcement Fund span Ohio. The commander of each task force applied to the state government for aid and received checks from the Governor at the State Capitol in Columbus. Capt. Tony Villaneuva, the commander of the Trumbull Action Group, plans to use a $53,477 grant to pay for more equipment and manpower for narcotics raids and investigations. His task force is based in the northeastern city of Warren, the seat of Trumball County.

In neighboring Mahoning County, the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force received a grant for $26,993. Sgt. Larry McLaughlin, the Mahoning Valley commander, plans to use the grant to upgrade his officers’ vehicles. The Columbiana County Drug Task Force, also located in northeastern Ohio, received a grant for $32,928, and the Lorain County Drug Task Force, located in the Cleveland metropolitan zone, received a grant for $87,300.

The METRICH Enforcement Unit received one of the largest grants, $240,640. The METRICH Enforcement Unit conducts anti-narcotics operations in nine counties in central Ohio. Other Ohio task forces which received grants include the Ottawa County Regional Task Force near Toledo ($65,057), the Westshore Enforcement Bureau in Fairview Park ($52,331), and the Lake County Narcotics Agency in Painesville ($40,000).

The Ohio Drug Crisis

According to a statement from the Governor’s office, the grants will help task forces “intensify their efforts to identify high-level drug traffickers, dismantle large drug trafficking organizations, interrupt the flow of money and drugs from Mexican cartels, and prevent the sale of illegal narcotics to those suffering from substance use disorders.”

As a populous state with several large cities, Ohio is a major target for drug traffickers. Last year, the police in Ohio confiscated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and other illegal substances. As drugs enter the state, many people of Ohio struggle with addiction and overdose.

In particular, Ohio is one of the states that the opioid epidemic has most severely impacted. From 2016 to 2017, the number of Ohioans who lost their lives to an opioid overdose increased from 3,613 to 4,854, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Incomplete data for 2018 and 2019 indicate that efforts to reduce overdoses and prevent addiction have caused the drug fatality rate in Ohio to moderately decrease. With greater resources, task forces in Ohio will hopefully continue to make a difference.

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Nathan Yerby

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  • Nathan Yerby is a writer and researcher. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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