ECHO Awareness: Bringing light to America’s opiod crisis each issue

Maia Bond, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Local police officer provides insight into opioid abuse

45% of heroin users were at some point addicted to prescription opioids. There is no hiding the worsening epidemic of heroin and opioid addicts in our community. From Rolla High graduates to mothers and fathers, addiction be sudden and completely unexpected. Police in a small town like Rolla can only do their best to help the community heal and get help for those in need.

A detective with the Rolla Police Department, Derrick Dillon, wears a dark suit and a red tie. He is tall but kind, well spoken and clearly intelligent. He shines a light onthe police department and what they do to combat drug abuse.

“I started in law enforcement about 13 years ago. I was born and raised in Rolla, I love it here, and I became interested when I went on a ride along with my friend. I didn’t realize the bad aspects of this community that a lot of people don’t see, just like with any community. That really fueled the fire for me as far as wanting to become a police officer and do my part in serving the community,” Dillon said.

Despite the obvious kind-hearted reasoning behind wanting to be an officer, Dillon admits, looking down and reaching for the right words, seeing what they often see can take a toll on anyone.

“I get to see the worst in people and situations. We work in a primarily negative environment and are called when really bad things happen. Unfortunately, as a detective, we probably investigate the worst of the worst. Anywhere from child abuse to homicide, and there’s investigations where we have to pass bad news on to family members,” Dillon said.

The reasoning behind drug related deaths are almost always hard to explain to families. Some are unexpected, they had no idea their family member had an issue, or they think their family member had sought out help and was recovering. Dillon’s job deals with few living drug survivors.

“My experience with opioids as a detective is that we come in at the end where someone has overdosed or passed away because of opioid abuse. My job as a detective is to investigate all deaths that occur outside of a medical facility and some of those deaths are because of opioid abuse,” Dillon said.

It is easy to get caught up in local news, it seems like there are more drug related deaths each day. It is disheartening and seems hopeless, Dillon looks up when he speaks and folds his hands on top of the dark wooden desk.

“I don’t think that there’s any more opioids in Rolla than other places in Missouri, but probably not any less. Everyone says that Rolla has a drug problem, which is true, but our culture has a drug problem. Our surrounding communities and bigger cities, you can’t really go anywhere without some type of drug problem,” Dillon said.

Drugs have been a part of each person’s life, no matter what. Each community deals with it, and the effects reach everyone. Because children are constantly bombarded with D.A.R.E. programs and anti-drug assemblies, it can become boring and desensitize them. That is, until someone they know overdoses or a family member becomes an addict.

Dillon reads his notes, scribbled in blue pen, his voice echoing quietly around the plain room. His foot taps to an unknown rhythm.

“To date we have investigated 11 deaths from January 1st to now associated with opioid abuse. There are also four additional deaths that we are still waiting on toxicology reports. We recently issued Narcan, which is a drug that helps reverse opioid overdoses, that our officers will be carrying,” Dillon said.

Dillon waves his hands and pauses to gather his words as he explains growing into his position in law enforcement.

“A lot of deaths that we investigate are sudden and involve young adults. We take a good hard look at the evidence, because it probably leads to overdose. Its sad to me because when I was a younger patrol officer, I remember it was all about making the arrest and being really excited that you found drugs in the car or on someone. As I’ve matured as a law enforcement officer, I’m able to understand more about addiction and how it affects the family and the addict. I really take pride in trying to learn more about how we can help addicts,” Dillon said.

Dealing with addicts every day can be taxing, even if you are not personally attached to them. The strain law enforcement puts on the mind, along with a personal struggle is hard to juggle.

“I have a close friend who is addicted to alcohol and there’s a lot of similarities in symptoms. It’s unfortunate they started it to begin with, but once they have, what can we do as a community, agency, friends, and family to help them through that addiction? We have to do what we can to love them unconditionally and support them to get them the help that they need,” Dillon said.

It can be difficult, as an agency, to be very preventative in the war on drugs. However, steps are being taken to help those in need. Police officers jobs are not solely to arrest and give out tickets. Dillon speaks with pride and hopeful assurance.

“The police department is very reactive, we go when there is a call. I can tell you that we have a lot of caring and compassionate officers here who understand that addiction is a serious problem. It’s not just about making the arrest, it’s about helping them through the process. We will attempt to get them any type of help they are willing to take. We will refer them somewhere or attend drug court. It’s about being compassionate and understanding,” Dillon said.

No matter how compassionate people are, right now there are people overdosing. Drugs continue to become more deadly and combating and singling out the most deadly are essential in ending this crisis.

“What is really concerning right now is that fentanyl is being introduced, which is another narcotic that is used for medical purposes. It is very potent and toxic, so a little bit used in the wrong manner can result in death. When people are abusing heroin and they get their next fix, they don’t know exactly what they are getting, and if it includes fentanyl, a lot of the toxicology reports we are getting back include fentanyl, and that is probably what’s killing them. It is also young drug users who are not familiar with using heroin and they inject too much and one time could be all it takes,” Dillon said.

Dillon’s kind tone shines when he talks about helping people. He encourages in a way that seems genuine and as if he truly knows he is right.

“Never give up never stop trying to get clean. Some people take a lot longer than others. You just have to encourage them to get help in any way shape or form. I like to give my business card and say ‘Please, if there’s anything we can do for you, please let me be that person’. Any family member that is dealing with this, do not give up. I’ve heard so many say that they can’t handle it anymore and if they were given just one more chance that may have been the chance they needed to push through,” Dillon said.