PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - According to unofficial numbers provided by the Wood County Sheriff’s Department, drug overdoses were up in Wood County in 2019, compared to 2018.
“For 2019, we had 331, which is up from last year. 263,” said Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens.
Stephens says those numbers are based on 911 calls and don’t include any overdoses that may have been transported to a hospital by a privately owned vehicle.
While overdoses are up, overdose deaths appear to be down.
“We’ve had 31 deaths last year, but are at 28 as of right now. But, we still have some numbers pending,” said Stephens.
On the subject of opioids, Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks says his department saw a decrease in opioid related arrests and deaths.
“In ’18, we had 93 arrests as a result of opioid usage or possession, conveyance, something related to them. And in the 2019 year, we only had 89,” said Mincks
Fatal overdoses are down for the department as well, and while Mincks’s numbers don’t account for Belpre or Marietta, Mincks thinks his fatalities are down due to another drug’s rising prominence.
“We are not encountering as many overdoses with meth as we are with opioids,” said Mincks.
Sheriff Stephens agrees that meth becoming more prominent in the area may be having an impact his numbers, too.
“It’s still very troublesome that we are getting the numbers, that are that high,” said Stephens.
But where did the meth come from? Mincks says drug cartels have figured out an easy way to make high quality meth, and they’ve flooded the market.
“We had talked with some of our people who were affiliated with the mules and the mules were telling us for every kilo of heroin, the suppliers were giving them a kilo of meth because they were wanting make some meth addicts. If you give out free stuff, and then the next time when you get hooked on it, then they charge you for it,” said Mincks.
As for 2020, Sheriff Mincks plans to continue working with mental health professionals to fight addiction.
“Our base problem is the number of addicts that we have and they’re going to try something, whether it’s heroin or meth or cocaine or whatever. So, we are actually working with our mental health board,” said Mincks. “We have a team that’s set up that has a uniformed officer on it and has somebody from mental health. It has a person that is familiar with addiction and what we’re trying to do is go out and talk to these people and see if we can get them to go through rehabilitation.”
And the Washington County Sheriff’s department is working on stopping drugs on the roadways around the county.
“We have also created an interdiction team. We’re going to be working the highways a lot more. We have specially trained officers who will be working interdiction, and that’s all they’re going to be doing,’ said Mincks.
The Wood County Sheriff is planning something similar.
“We are going to combine our license plate readers with our canines and start becoming more visible in our interdiction in the neighborhoods,” said Stephens.