Cole County Officals Cracking Down on Drugs

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JEFFERSON CITY - Jefferson City Police and the Cole County Sheriff's Department met with local agencies Thursday to fight what appears to be an increase in heroin/opiate usage in Mid-Missouri. 

Though they don't have firm numbers, Jefferson City Police Captain Doug Shoemaker said, "There've been a number of reports over the last few years that we've had an increase in heroin/opiate overdoses, which may or may not have been the cause of deaths as a result. So to look more intelligently at the problem, the Cole County Sheriff's Department and the Jefferson City Police Department have decided to work together as a collective."

Healthcare providers and prevention organizations met with law enforcement officials to plan a campaign focused on education and enforcement. It's called the HOPE campaign-- Heroin Overdose Prevention Education. Groups involved included: The Council for Drug Free Youth, Prevention Resource, Pathways Community Health, the Cole County Department of Health,and ACT Missouri.

Joy Sweeney, executive director of the Council for Drug Free Youth, said part of that community education involves recognizing warning signs.  "Dry mouth, slurred speech, some of the things you might not necessarily associate with anything other than maybe the person's drunk or a little tired, real heavy limbs, there's certain tell-tale signs. There's some paraphernalia we'll be pointing out as well," said Sweeney.

Tuesday, Jefferson City Police arrested two people after finding a substantial amount of heroin in a home on East Miller Street. A one-week-old child was also present and is in the custody of the Division of Family Services.  Police said the bust didn't spark the crackdown, but rather heroin usage has been on their radar for some time now.

One East Miller resident said he's seen what he suspected was drug activity, calling police at least 10 times.  "We've seen constant traffic in and out, and certain houses. We're not stupid people on the block. But a lot of people don't want to get involved," said Kelly Lewis.  Lewis is happy to have police help in enforcement.  "If you can't clean up your own neighborhood, then you can't clean up anything," Lewis said.

The groups plan to host a public forum on the issue early next year.