Future Threat? Heroin in our Community

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Law enforcement authorities in Prowers County and the local medical providers have recently expressed concerns about the rise in the use of heroin by residents, some as young as 17 years.  Sheriff Jim Faull said there are about 10 cases he is aware of, but that may be the tip of what is hoped to be a small iceberg.  Faull explained during a recent interview, “There has always been some limited evidence of heroin use in Prowers County, but lately, since this past August, we’ve noted an increase,” he added, “There may be a one in ten ratio for more users, but we don’t have absolute proof of that.”  Heroin is classified as a Schedule 2 Controlled Substance.  “I’ve talked with Sheriff Chris Johnson in Otero County and he’s aware of some use in his region, and Bent County authorities have seen some activity as well, but more use is happening in our county,” Faull said. 

The sheriff says he knows of one case in which parents of a heroin user attempted to find medical assistance for their child to help them withdraw from the drug on their own, but it just wasn’t working with the limited experience local providers had in this field.  Professional help was required and the young person was to be placed in a rehabilitation facility.  He said that although there is awareness by the hospitals, high school, police, the courts and Crossroads, experienced guides are needed due to the medical complications of the process of taking a patient through the various cycles of withdrawal and detoxification. 

“The users are inhaling fumes from the drug once it’s been heated, they aren’t injecting it,” the sheriff explained.  He added that one of the myths around the drug is you can’t get hooked if you ingest it that way.  He’d like to see mandatory sentences levied in the courts for sellers, similar to DUI or gun law violations and the heroin users receive some form of rehabilitation and medical treatment.  “If we can eliminate plea bargains and enforce automatic, mandatory prison sentences, this should help cut back on its spread, he explained.”  He said rural areas are limited to what they can do to help heroin users, though.  “The rehab option works for metro areas because they have the resources to handle these problems, but we can’t detox anyone in our jail and we have to ship these people out and it becomes expensive, even in a prison facility.” 

Faull added, “The increase in use is new to us in the county.  We have the same law enforcement techniques to handling arrests, but we’re seeing an increase in robberies which may be attributed to increased usage.”  The sheriff said that as some of the users don’t have jobs, they could begin stealing to cover the cost of their drugs.  “It’s the same procedure that dealers use with giving away free drugs to start and once they’ve increased their user base, then you have to pay to continue to get the drug,” he explained. 

The sheriff noted that the county jail inmate population has been consistently increasing over the past fifteen years.  “We used to average from 25 to 30 persons a day, but we’re seeing more and more coming in, even though they may be staying for a shorter period,” he stated.  “The numbers now are closer to 50 on average and we’re at our maximum at 57.  The average stay is around 52 days and the prisoner increase also means a financial increase on our taxpayers in the county.  We’re seeing more jail sentences than prison time, as it costs less for the state that way, so we’re seeing reduced penalties.  He added that the local community input is needed to help stem an increase in heroin use.  “We’re looking at a comprehensive public awareness campaign from the medical community to let people know what they may be up against in their towns,” Faull added.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: CitycommunityCountyEducationFeaturedGranadaHealthHollyHot TopicsLamarLaw EnforcementProwers CountyPublic SafetyWileyYouth


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