Ohio Prosecutors Fight Rx Abuse

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Last year, 2 armed men walked intoa small independent pharmacy onthe Indiana-Ohio border anddemanded a variety of controlled substances.They left the pharmacy anddrove east into Butler County, Ohio,already consuming some of the painmedicines they had forcibly removedduring the robbery.

Once into Butler County, the 2 werestopped by Butler County DeputyBrandon Roberts, who then approachedthe car. At almost point-blank range,Roberts was shot in the abdomen with ashotgun, with the car then driving off.Fortunately, Deputy Roberts survived,and the 2 subjects were arrested withoutfurther incident and have since beensentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Fed Up With Holdups

Robin Piper, Butler County prosecutor,decided he had seen enough of the prescriptiondrug problem in his area andwanted to do something about it. Hehired an experienced drug diversioninvestigator, Robert Mortimer, and calledarea law enforcement, court officials,and health professionals together to discussthe problem and move toward asolution.

The results of his initiative have beendramatic, as the number of criminalcases in Butler County has almost doubledover 2005, with several moremonths left in 2006. In addition, he haslaunched a prescription drug abuse hotlinefor people to report drug diversionoffenses. Also, prescription drug abusebrochures will soon be showing up indoctor's waiting rooms and pharmacies,as Piper sees cooperation from healthprofessionals to be crucial to the program'ssuccess.

Drug Court

Butler County has a drug court, andPiper indicates that most of the defendantswith addiction problems in thiscourt will find themselves with the abilityto take control of their lives again andfight their addiction with close monitoring.This is his goal for the nonviolent prescriptiondrug offenders, who will get asecond chance at living a productive life.

Rx Abuse Help

Meanwhile, in Warren County, Ohio,Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel has been makinga dent in this problem through aggressiveprosecution and the introductionof prescription drug abuse programsthrough our local Coalition for a Drug-freeWarren County. She has made this issue atop priority, noting that almost 90% of thegrand jury cases involve drugs, and prescriptiondrug abuse continues to grow inthis southwest Ohio County, which bordersCincinnati and Butler County.

Hutzel is in the process of sending out amass mailing to thousands of WarrenCounty residents to inform them aboutthe dangers of prescription drug abuse.She also has sponsored prescription drugabuse training for all area law enforcementpersonnel, providing one of hercriminal prosecutors to educate cops asto the laws governing drug diversionoffenses in Ohio.

These are 2 examples of prosecutorstaking action regarding prescription drugabuse. Their jurisdictions are betterserved by the fact that they recognizethis problem and are working with lawenforcement and health professionals toaddress drug diversion in their counties.

In several past articles, I have talkedabout the need to get your police administratorsand/or your county prosecutorto take prescription drug abuse seriously.They truly hold the key as to what extentthose diverting prescription drugs will becriminally pursued.

The effort by these 2 innovative prosecutorscan be repeated around the country,and you may be the person who canstart it in your community. Use your pharmacyassociation, your state board, oryour personal local acquaintances to getan initiative like those in Ohio moving inyour town.

John Burke, commander of the Warren County, Ohio, drug task force and retiredcommander of the Cincinnati Police PharmaceuticalDiversion Squad, is a 38-year veteran of lawenforcement. Cmdr Burke also is the current presidentof the National Association of Drug DiversionInvestigators. For information, he can bereached by e-mail at burke@choice.net, viathe Web site www.rxdiversion.com, or by phone at 513-336-0070.