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2017-11-01 A National Crisis Hits Home | By: Fellow GDREIA Members

A National Crisis Hits Home
 By Larry D. Hudson
 
The opioid crisis is changing life in the Miami Valley – and the battle to end the crisis is likely to be a long one. That was the message from Bruce Langos, director of Montgomery County’s Criminal Intelligence Center and longtime chair of the Montgomery County Drug Free Coalition.
 
Langos paid a visit to Greater Dayton REIA’s First Wednesday meeting for November (11/1/17). A former top technology executive at TerraData Corporation, Langos left the corporate world last year to establish the new Criminal Intelligence Center within the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
 
The Center’s aim is to use data analysis to help police agencies across the region become more efficient in fighting crime. Much of what the Center is able to share with law enforcement agencies helps them target drug traffickers through several initiatives. It’s working – but much remains to be done. The problem of drug trafficking and addiction continues to show it’s more than a match for law enforcement.
 
“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this,” Langos said, pointing to new approaches to addicts and addiction.
 
The problem is huge right here at home: more than 1,700 overdose emergency calls in Montgomery County in 2016 – 3,000+ so far in 2017. Overdose deaths in the county are on the rise: 259 in 2015; 349 in 2016; 523 by the end of October, 2017. There are times, Longos said, when all City of Dayton ambulances are tied up with overdose response calls. On more than 400 occasions, he said, Dayton had to call for mutual aid ambulance squads from the suburbs.
 
There are overdoses of opioid pills and overdoses of injectable drugs. Most times, Langos said, heroin addicts are not getting what they expect.
 
“There’s very little heroin in Montgomery County,” Langos said. Instead, most of what’s being sold on the street is fentanyl, a powerful opioid pain medication that is less expensive than heroin. A little goes a long way: fentenyl is 100 times as potent as morphine.
 
“That’s what distributors are cutting heroin with now,” he said. The strength of the mix sold on the street is unpredictable – leading to the rash of overdoses. An even greater danger is heroin cut with carfentanil – a large animal painkiller 10,000 times as potent as morphine.
 
Supply of the illegal drugs is plentiful – with two of the largest Mexican drug cartels now doing business in Montgomery county and dozens of local gangs dealing. Demand for the drugs is higher than ever.
 
What is to be done? Langos, as chair of the Montgomery County Drug-Free Coalition,
is working to reduce demand for illegal drugs. Reducing demand would seem to hold promise: “People in the United States represent just 5% of the planet’s population – and use 80% of the world’s opioid supply,” Langos said.
 
Another needed change in strategy, he said, is to recognize addiction for what it is.
 
“Addiction is a brain disease that can affect anyone. It touches all parts of society from the very poor to the very wealthy,” Langos said. “Many of the addicts I’ve met are great people – they just got caught up in something they couldn’t handle.”
 
Many addicts developed addiction to pain medications following injuries or surgery, Langos said. Following a crackdown on prescriptions for opioid pain meds, many people turned to the black market.
 
Law enforcement is trying new approaches to help addicts get the treatment they need. Started last year, the Front Door Project is a program that helps addicts obtain treatment and avoid jail. When police make overdose calls, they offer to drive addicts to clinics that offer a month-long outpatient program paid by Medicaid. Montgomery County deputies have reached out to more than 2,100 addicts with the treatment offer since the program began, Langos said.
 
Addicts who complete treatment benefit from supportive living environments – including the growing number of state-certified “sober living” houses being established around the county, Langos said.
 
How does all this affect you as a rental property owner? It should change the way you approach cleanup when a tenant moves out, Langos suggests. “Be aware of any white powder you see and assume it’s dangerous,” he cautions. “Wear gloves and a mask. Carfentanil is deadly and can enter your body through your hands. It’s an overdose risk.”
 
If you see a bag of powder of a needle, don’t touch it or try to pick it up, Langos adds.  
 
As for the people you see around your rental properties – don’t expect to always be able to spot the person dealing the addiction.
 
“I’ve seen highly-paid, responsible people who were very high-functioning,” Langos said.
“No one knew.”
 
Sometimes, he suggested, the struggle with addiction is a lonely and private one.  
 
 
 

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