Counties struggle to keep drugs out of their jails

Local sheriff says Ohio should do more to help counties cope with opioid crisis.

A local sheriff says Ohio should buy enough full body scanners — expensive machines that cost more than $100,000 apiece — so that every county can stop the flow of drugs into their jails.

“We in Miami County, and I know several other sheriffs, are exploring getting body scanners to have inmates pre-screened to ensure that they’re not bringing narcotics into the facility,” said Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak. “Those are very expensive machines. They ballpark around $120,000.

Montgomery and Greene counties are working on getting scanners and they are already being used at the Butler County Jail, the Tri-County Regional Jail in Mechanicsburg and jails in Hamilton, Cuyagoga, Stark and Medina counties.

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The Associated Press reported Friday that Youngstown County commissioners voted to buy a scanner for the county jail after two inmates overdosed on fentanyl smuggled into the jail. Both inmates were revived by naloxone.

Duchek said his corrections officers are trained to use naloxone, which can counteract overdoses from heroin and its deadly synthetic cousin, fentanyl.

“We’ve had seven, eight, nine people on heroin medical watch coming down from heroin in our jail,” Duchak said. “We have the aspect that they’re smuggling heroin in body cavities so I think most jails have suffered an overdose here or there.”

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He said the state is not doing enough to help counties cope with the opiate and opioid crisis that is swelling inmate populations.

“In my 30 years in this job I’ve never the drug problem as bad as it is with the heroin and the number of users,” Duchak said. “The state’s going to have to come up with a funding solution. The counties just can’t keep absorbing the state passing their responsibilities like they are.”

A request for comment is pending with a spokeswoman for Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Emmalee Kalmbach, press secretary for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said the state spent nearly $1 billion in fiscal year 2016 fighting drug abuse and addiction.

"Fighting this epidemic requires a strong partnership -- across parties, layers of government, branches of government and the private and public sector – and we value the role and contributions that Ohio’s law enforcement officers bring to this effort," Kalmbach said in an email. "We will always continue to look to provide new tools to those on the frontlines in our communities."

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