(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Over 13 tri-state law enforcement and treatment agencies joined the Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center (ONIC) and RecoveryOhio in Lawrence County for the first time to conduct a coordinated drug/outreach saturation event.
Operation BRIDGE was aimed at removing drugs and traffickers from the streets as well as connecting individuals with substance use disorder to the help and treatment they need. The Lawrence County Drug and Major Crimes Unit, which operates as part of the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s office, sought to be proactive in addressing the drug scourge in southern Ohio and requested the surge.
The two-day enforcement surge combined the efforts of drug task forces, law enforcement agencies, quick response teams, and harm reduction and treatment providers from Ohio, West, Virginia, and Kentucky for a comprehensive approach to the addiction crisis in southern Ohio.
Law enforcement agencies fanned out across Lawrence County and other major interdiction routes coming into Lawrence County to stop the drugs flowing through the area and to nab the couriers responsible for supplying drugs to the tri-state.
“The drug trade knows no boundaries. Individuals using illegal substances in southern Ohio often travel just a few miles to another state to buy drugs when their supply is disrupted, or vice versa,” said Ben Suver, Ohio Department of Public Safety Director of Law Enforcement Initiatives, who oversees ONIC. “ONIC supplied intelligence analysts and forensic personnel to help law enforcement build cases that connect the dots between drug traffickers and people using illegal substances.”
RecoveryOhio supported the mission by working with local agencies to have 150 Naloxone kits and 150 prescription drug disposal bags on hand. These prescription drug disposal bags were available at a drug take back effort that was held in the community during the saturation event. The Lawrence County Drug and Major Crimes Unit assumed responsibility for storing and destroying all the collected pills.
“The drug use epidemic is not something we can simply arrest our way out of,” said RecoveryOhio Director Aimee Shadwick. “By connecting people with evidence-based treatment, we are providing resources and support to help them in their recovery so they can go on to live healthy, productive lives.”
Lawrence County judges participated in Operation BRIDGE by offering treatment in lieu of incarceration for low-level felony drug offenders who requested help. Quick Response Teams (QRT) connected individuals to the services, treatment, and recovery supports they needed to begin their recovery.
Participating agencies included: Lawrence County Drug Task Force, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, Ironton Police Department, Hanging Rock Police Department, Coal Grove Police Department, South Point Police Department, Chesapeake Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol, South Central Major Crimes Unit Drug Task Force, Hamilton County Heroin Coalition Drug Task Force, Huntington, W.Va. QRT, Boyd County, Ky. QRT, Portsmouth QRT, ONIC, and RecoveryOhio.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed an executive order in July 2019 creating ONIC, a specialized criminal intelligence unit to assist local law enforcement in conducting intelligence-driven drug trafficking investigations. Operated as part of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, ONIC has locations in Cleveland, Columbus, southwest Ohio, and Toledo. ONIC’s criminal intelligence analysts and computer forensic specialists provide investigative, analytical, and digital forensic support to local law enforcement agencies and drug task forces throughout Ohio. The Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center is a division of the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
Immediately after taking office, Governor DeWine created RecoveryOhio through his first executive order. He created RecoveryOhio to have a cabinet-level director in the Governor’s office who would coordinate and expand the state’s efforts to combat substance use and mental health disorders by increasing prevention efforts, expanding treatment, providing support services for those in recovery and their families, and working with local law enforcement to provide resources to fight illicit drugs at the source.