County, Chester Officials Discuss Drugs, Overdoses
October 8, 2021 by Samuel Hummer

Judy Zamlen-Spotts, of Chester Township, raised concerns about spikes in drug use to Geauga County Commissioners during their regular meeting Sept. 28.

Judy Zamlen-Spotts, of Chester Township, raised concerns about spikes in drug use to Geauga County Commissioners during their regular meeting Sept. 28.

“The drug problem in Geauga County is not over. It is not in the headlines because it does not make news. But if you work with (Geauga County Job and Family Services), or law enforcement, you will know that is worse than ever,” Zamlen-Spotts told commissioners.

She said “the only public official” who has helped is commissioner Ralph Spidalieri and she believes the county’s opioid task force has “completely failed.”

Zamlen-Spotts proceeded to ask commissioners if they had any plan to address the drug problem.

“The money that the county has put in place has allowed us to now have a drug court which is addressing some of those issues,” replied Gerry Morgan, county administrator. “The sheriff’s office has their task force, as well as the prosecutor’s office, so good things are being done, they are just not being broadcast.”

University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center was not immediately able to provide statistics for emergency room visits and deaths involving drug overdoses. However, Geauga County Coroner John Urbancic said drug overdoses in the county are up about 25% from the usual numbers, compared to the last couple of years.

“So this is going to be a very high year. We do not know all the reasons for that, although we do think COVID has a lot to do with it, perhaps with people being out of work,” he said. “I do not know.”

Chester Township Police Chief Mark Purchase said drug overdoses are a constant.

“(Drugs have) become a part of a lot of the major crimes that we experience in one way or another,” Purchase said.

“Little by little, we have heard that (methamphetamine) is making a bigger return, although I will say about 10 years ago, meth was definitely bigger,” he said.

The chief added the community has not received a phone call relating to a drug overdose in a couple of weeks, but noted not all overdoses are reported.

“If someone has a drug overdose in their house and someone in that house takes them to a clinic or hospital, we do not know about it,” he said. “I can only describe the calls that are called into Chester police and fire.”

Purchase also said ordinary tasks, such as a traffic stop for speeding, have allowed Chester police to get more drugs off the streets, although they are not purposely pulling more people over to discover drugs.

He said there have been recent drug busts in the township within the last couple months.

“We have drug charges that move forward all the time,” he said. “We also have a very good working relationship with the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office. (The office) has a unit of detectives when needed as well. My detective has drug charges going on quite often for indictment or up to the (county) prosecutors office.”

The conversation then returned to heroin and fentanyl.

“Our officers have used Narcan over and over again before the rescue squad arrives. It has been used on many, many occasions. I cannot say that every call we get relating to an overdose involves fentanyl or heroin, but we absolutely deal with it,” he said.

Purchase also wanted to reiterate to the public that drugs, especially heroin, can affect anyone. “There is no demographic for it. There are people we see that one would never expect to be a heroin addict and they are, and a lot of that gets started from them getting prescribed opioid pills. It does not matter if you’re rich, poor, a teenager, or middle-aged, it can affect anyone,” Purchase said.

Those in Geauga County seeking help with recovery can contact such Lake-Geauga Recovery Centers, Inc., and Prosperity Haven Treatment Center, both of which are in Chardon.