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A crisis like no other

January 18, 2018 Digital Media Exclusive

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In his 31 years in law enforcement, Mark Pfeffer has noticed a disturbing trend.

As a younger officer, he would hear an overdose call over his radio, followed by the lights and sirens.

He could also hear the urgency, which in recent years has subsided.

“It's so sad now to hear the routineness of that,” he said. “It's almost like a barking dog complaint. ... Of course the rush is there, but it's too routine.”

Pfeffer, chief deputy of the Butler County Sheriff's Office, this week spoke to members of the Rich-Mar Rotary Club, outlining the heroin and opioid epidemic and how local law enforcement officials are battling it. The routineness shows not just in the urgency, but also in hard numbers.

“Seventy-four lives were lost last year due to overdoses, and I think once all the (toxicology) screens are in for 2017, we'll be in the ballpark of 90,” he said of Butler County.

The trend of addiction is unlike anything Pfeffer has seen in his career, save for the crack cocaine problem on the early 1990s. The difference, he said, is the number of people who become addicted unintentionally.

“There is a growing population that are prescribed medications to begin with ... as a painkiller,” he said. “More and more people become addicted from a legal use to begin with. They make a few errors with it, or overmedicate either intentionally or unintentionally.”

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