GREENVILLE – There was no featured speaker at this month’s ag breakfast, but there was a common thread through most of the reports — heroin. The impact of the deadly addiction epidemic is manifested in a myriad of ways through the courts, law enforcement and employment.
Darke County Municipal Court Judge Julie Monnin shared the year-end statistics for her court. She said while about 30 percent of the charges in her court directly involve drugs probably about 75 percent of the cases she sees are at least indirectly related to drugs. From theft and breaking and entering to get money for drugs, to traffic violations caused by impairment, to violent crime, heroin and other drug use is the single largest contributing cause to cases in the criminal courts today.
Monnin also said her court is making use of house arrest more frequently now than in the past. She said since the state now expects non-violent felony offenders to be jailed locally instead of in the state prison system, the local jail is usually too full to handle misdemeanor offenders. She said the use of house arrest also saves the county money, as the cost of housing an inmate at the Darke County jail is $58 per day, and the overflow space in the Mercer County jail is $48 per day.
John Spencer, from the Darke County office of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, scoffed at the latest unemployment figures coming out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although the official unemployment estimate for Darke County is 4 percent, Spencer said that does not reflect the large number of working age people who are not counted as part of the “labor pool” for the purpose of statistics. The problem, however, is not a lack of jobs in the county – there are plenty of those available in several different companies, with even more growth on the horizon. The problem, he said, is the lack of people to fill those jobs. The companies are seeking people who will show up to work every day and can pass a drug test, he said, adding that some companies are so in need of labor that they are willing to hire workers with felony records and little experience or education.
“If this (labor shortage) keeps up,” Spencer said. “We’re going to start losing businesses. They’re going to leave.”
County Commissioner Diane Delaplane reported that county law enforcement officers will now be carrying Narcan, the emergency rescue drug for opiate overdoses, thanks to some funding provided by the Health Department. Delaplane acknowleged the controversial image of the drug, citing both the view “if you can save one, it’s better than saving none” as well as the opposing view of “if they want to do it, they should have to face the consequences of it.”
“It brings them back,” Monnin said in response to Delaplane’s comments, adding, “for them to do it again.”
Delaplane went on to say, “Are we enabling or not?”, and Monnin again immediately replied, “Yes.”
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for the officers to have Narcan,” Monnin explained. “They’re not medical staff, whether they’re trained by the health department or not.” She went on to cite the injustice for terminally or chronically ill patients who cannot get their medication while drug addicts can get emergency rescue drugs over the counter.
Sam Custer, of the OSU Extension Office, turned the conversation to a more positive tone, recognizing the exemplary young people who recently interviewed for ag scholarships. He also made note of some upcoming Extension events that are sold out well in advance.
A few reservation spaces are still available for the 2016 Ag Outlook Meeting, scheduled for Feb. 19 at noon at Romer’s Party Room in Greenville. The cost is $20 person, and the registration deadline is Feb. 11. Contact Custer at 937-548-5215 or by email at [email protected] for information on registering.