By Andrea Cordle
“We have an opioid crisis. It is killing people daily,” said Grove City Chief of Police Richard Butsko.
Therefore, the chief of police has supported new legislation from city council.
On Feb. 3, council approved a resolution to form a substance addiction and mental health action plan committee.
“Opioid addiction has become as prevalent for us as cancer,” said Christine Houk, council president. “This gives us a strategy to fight for the health of the community.”
According to Houk, the committee would work on an action plan to deal with the crisis by bring together community partners from government agencies, education, law enforcement, first responders, health care providers, mental health clinicians and faith communities.
Part of the action plan would establish a pilot program and create a substance addiction and mental health advocate position in cooperation with the Alcohol Drug and Mental Health (ADAMH) Board of Franklin County. The advocate would assist individuals with addiction and mental health illnesses through a variety of treatment and service options while serving as the primary contact for city staff.
“A consultant will be assigned to the city from ADAMH,” said Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage. “We are going to be attacking this on a broader form.”
According to the legislation, this advocate will also assist the city prosecutor with referrals from the Grove City Mayor’s Court/Municipal Court to the Franklin County Recovery Court or other treatment options, divert the appropriate individuals into treatment versus incarceration, and serve as a resource for affected family members.
Butsko said this committee is a step in the right direction and expands the division’s Retail Operation Program, which consists of several officers who investigate retail theft, narcotics and prostitution. Butsko said in most cases, heroin is the root cause of these crimes.
According to the police chief, a heroin user needs approximately $50 to $75 per day to get their fix for their addiction. He said users engage in petty theft to get the money to buy heroin.
The Retail Operation Program is a partnership with loss prevention officers from local retailers. They connect and share information through an invitation-only social media chat room managed by the Grove City police.
As part of the program, the officers conduct occasional shoplifting blitzes, where they apprehend the suspect but have counselors on hand so the individual could seek treatment instead of going to jail.
“We are using law enforcement as a tool for solutions,” said Butsko.
He said the goal is to get the addict to choose treatment over dealing with law enforcement.
“The bigger problem,” Butsko said, “is how to get them to accept treatment.”
According to the police chief, when the department last held a shoplifting blitz, 12 individuals were stopped and not one accepted the offer of treatment or help.
Butsko said the programs already in place in the city, along with the substance addiction and mental health action plan committee, sends a message that the city is going to do everything possible to help.
“We are not going to give up.”
The city’s safety director or his designee will serve as the chair of the committee. Members from the Jackson Township Fire Department will also play an integral role in the committee.