If you thought that Scioto County is no longer ground zero for drug problems in the U.S., check the court dockets. Drug charges continue to dominate court activity.
Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware says when the pill mills were shut down, it didn’t take away the addiction. The high rate of addiction coupled with the decreased flow of pharmaceuticals caused the addicts to look for a replacement to fill the opioid void. Heroin became the replacement due to its cheaper price .
Of 25 people indicted by the most recent session of the Scioto County grand jury, 19 included drug charges.
Kenya L. Clemens, 35 of Ashland, Kentucky, and Ronita S. Butler, 29 of Ironton are charged with aggravated trafficking in drugs; Angel M. Lucas, 35 of Huntington, West Virginia is charged with trafficking in cocaine and possession of cocaine; Lawrence Kelley, 31, and Kyree Arsenio Goode, Jr., 26, both of Dayton, Ohio faces charges of trafficking in heroin and possession of heroin.
Timothy Hilliard, 27 of South Portsmouth, Kentucky is charged with aggravated possession of drugs; Irwan P. Martin, 27 of Portsmouth; Sherry A. King, 45 of Lucasville is charged with possession of cocaine; Anthony McGowan, 53 of Portsmouth faces a charge of aggravated possession of drugs and Dennis Bradford, 48 of Portsmouth was indicted for possession of drugs.
Brenda Potter, 48 of Portsmouth is charged with aggravated possession of drugs; Tiffany Smith, 25 of Albany, Ohio faces charges to include three counts of theft of drugs and two counts of aggravated possession of drugs; Mitchell M. Waring, III, 39 of Wheelersburg is indicted for possession of drugs and possessing drug abuse instruments while Jason A. Scott, 32 of Portsmouth is charged with possession of cocaine.
Others facing drug charges include Seth Bratchett, 21 of Portsmouth for trafficking in marijuana and possession of cocaine; Dion McKinley, 22 of Portsmouth for trafficking in marijuana; Shannen Kelli Moorhead, 22 of West Portsmouth is charged with possession of heroin as is Paul L. Frazee, 48 of Quincy, Kentucky and Gabe McCarty, 39 of Wheelersburg faces a charge of theft of drugs.
“Many programs and changes have been taking place to help curb illicit drug use such as the take back days, drop boxes, education, and just recently, adoption of new prescribing protocols for physicians,” Ware told the Daily Times. “Addicts willing to get help were met with a lack of treatment options as well as a means to pay for it as most commercial health insurance did not provide adequate coverage if they were even insured. The expansion of Medicaid, drug courts, and more treatment options have enabled many to get the help they would have otherwise not been able to obtain.”
Ware said what should be a concern for all is the number of users of heroin or heroin mixed with fentanyl that were not previous abusers of pharmaceutical opioids.
“There is something wrong with mental makeup of our society as a whole when so many are willing to use a drug that kills more people on a daily basis than traffic crashes. If we don’t reach this next generation of young people we will face dire consequences as a nation,” Ware said. “It has to start at home. The Start Talking initiative, Five Minutes for Life, and many other programs are designed to keep kids focused on positive decision making and avoiding the poor choices such as choosing to abuse drugs, which leads to addiction, destruction, and often death.”
Ware said for those that can’t or won’t seek help, the results are often a higher propensity to suffer from an overdose or face sanctions within the criminal justice system.
“Our officers are making more drug arrests than ever before, as evidenced by the number of indictments we see on a regular basis. Sentencing reforms are alleviating the pressures on an already overburdened corrections system, but that leaves many a drug offender still in the community and still likely to continue to use drugs to avoid withdrawal and the sickness that accompanies drug dependency,” Ware said. “Treatment alternatives, drug courts, community corrections are replacing the overcrowded prisons and jails for non violent drug offenders. Not everyone will agree with that change in direction at the state and federal level, but it’s impossible for any state or community to arrest this problem away.”
Drug courts have proven to be successful locally.
“We have just become another level of accountability for them (offenders),” Portsmouth Municipal Court Judge Russell D. Kegley said. “So many of these folks have told us that in an of itself has helped them stay in line because we have so many people on a drug court panel and we’re all out in the community. They see us there and we’re almost like another set of parents that they don’t want to disappoint.”
Ware says it starts with education and that education should start early
“Many of the addicts I have spoken to began with experimental use of alcohol and marijuana as teens,” Ware said. “We must, as a community, reach out to those at risk kids, and we all know who they are, and begin to mentor them and guide them so they don’t fall into the trap.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.