Like most communities, St. Charles County is not immune to the heroin epidemic. Since 2013, the St. Charles County Police Department has responded to over 320 heroin-related calls for service and over 80 heroin overdoses. Your county government and law enforcement agencies don’t take these numbers lightly – collectively, we are working together to take action.
Starting in November 2015, the St. Charles County Police Department’s officers were the first law enforcement officers in the metro area in Missouri to carry Narcan®, a heroin antidote. Every second counts in an overdose, and now our officers have a way to give people a second chance even before paramedics respond. Within the first month our officers had their first Narcan® rescue, and have utilized the heroin-reversal drug for rescues in two more cases since.
The St. Charles County Regional Drug Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional enforcement group, is working with the St. Charles County Police Department. Last summer, the Task Force teamed with DEA St. Louis Group 32, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Office of St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar to form the St. Louis Regional Heroin Initiative. In June 2015, the first round-up resulted in 56 people arrested in 36 hours and took 34,000 doses of heroin off the market.
In 2014 and 2015, the prosecuting attorney had the first three successful criminal prosecutions in the state under the theory of criminal involuntary manslaughter by way of heroin distribution, which resulted in an overdose death. Moreover, the office considers it mandatory that all distributors of heroin be sentenced to the State of Missouri Department of Corrections – if you distribute heroin in St. Charles County, you will go to prison. In our 2016 budget, the County Council added an additional attorney to the prosecutor’s office devoted solely to handling heroin-related cases.
Of course, we can mitigate, investigate and prosecute, but our best defense against drugs is prevention. The Community Education Division of the St. Charles County Police Department has School Resource Officers stationed in six area middle and high schools to serve, not only as law enforcement officers, but also as mentors and educators encouraging constructive conduct and communication. Members of this division graduate approximately 1,800 students from the D.A.R.E program every year.
Community Resources United to Stop Heroin (CRUSH) is another prevention initiative from the prosecuting attorney that involves schools, law enforcement, treatment providers, community leaders, and health care organizations that meet on a monthly basis to plan and implement events and programs that target education and prevention of substance abuse. One of these events was a Teen Drug Summit, which reached over 400 6th-8th grade students in 2015 on the dangers of drug abuse. In addition, the office presents at high schools across the county to discuss the legal ramifications of using heroin.
While I wish we did not have to devote resources to fighting this epidemic, heroin has destroyed lives and families in our community and has the potential to do more damage. I would like to thank our law enforcement agencies for their hard work. Together, we will work to keep our community safe and healthy.