Cass County Sheriff gives presentation on the opioid crisis

CASSOPOLIS — The Cass County Board of Commissioners sat quietly Thursday evening, some with pensive stares, others with curious faces, as they learned more about the drug problems in Cass County.

The board of commissioners have heard several presentations about the opioid crisis recently, including ones from Prosecutor Victor Fitz and Judge Susan Dobrich. Last Thursday, the commissioners heard yet another presentation about the issue as Cass County Sheriff Richard Behnke gave a presentation about how the opioid crisis has affected local law enforcement.

“I wanted to give you some information about how the opioid crisis is affecting us in law enforcement,” Behnke said Thursday. “I’m going to give you a nut shell overview of how this is affecting law enforcement.”

Behnke said that there have been few cases of illegal, manufactured opioids, such as heroin, in Cass County, though that does not mean that it is not a problem in the county.

“That doesn’t mean it’s not out there, we just have to find it,” Behnke said. “That’s a different beast to attack.”

The cases of heroin the county has seen has largely been cases of people who first became addicted to prescription pills, Behnke said.

“People get the pills in legitimate ways, either for a tooth or for surgeries or going through a crisis, like cancer or something similar,” Behnke said. “What often happens is people get involved with [opioids] through a very minor situation and they get prescribed the opioids. But then, they’ve got to find them again, so they go to the hospitals and go hospital shopping for a doctor who will prescribe them. … After that doesn’t work, they have two options: find those opioid pills on the street or turn to heroin. Heroin is cheap and it’s pretty easy to get.”

Though opioids have been gaining national and local attention recently, Behnke made it clear that the largest drug problem in Cass County is still meth, which has been the leading cause of drug arrests in the county for many years.

“Meth is still king in Cass County,” Behnke said.

During the past five years, there have been 27 opioid-related drug arrests, including for pills, heroin and morphine, while there have been 230 meth-related drug arrests. There have also been 28 cocaine arrests, according to a report put together by Behnke and Undersheriff Clinton Roach.

However, in the 136 search warrants executed by the Cass County Drug Enforcement Team over the last five years, pills were found at every one, according to the report.

While not all of those are illegal pills, it demonstrates that Americans are overprescribed prescription medicine, Behnke said.

To combat the prescription pill problem, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies in the county have begun participating in drug take back days and created drop-off points for people to turn in their unwanted or unused pills.

“This keeps the pills from being susceptible to being stolen,” Behnke said. “That’s one way to curb that.”

Cass County’s last drug take back day resulted in more than 200 pounds of pills turned in to be safely discarded of.

Behnke said that the Cass County Drug Enforcement Team will continue to deal with the opioid crisis as it relates to the county.

“This is a serious issue,” Behnke said. “We will take it seriously.”

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