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Barberton sends text alerts about laced batch of drugs

Posted at 6:36 PM, Jun 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-06 19:18:00-04

BARBERTON, Ohio — Many cities send out text alerts to warn of storms, gas leaks, road closures or boil advisories, but on Wednesday night, the Barberton Fire Department delivered a different kind of warning to mobile devices and computers.

The Nixle message sent to a few thousand residents warned of a potentially dangerous opioid combination hitting the streets.

The emergency alert read: "Barberton Fire believes there is a stronger than normal or laced batch of heroin/fentanyl in the city. Please check on relatives and friends."

According to the Barberton Police Department, there have been eight overdoses in the city in the past few weeks.

According to Mayor William Judge, the fire department decided to issue the alert after responding to two overdoses within 90 minutes of each other Wednesday night in the same section of town.

"We're trying to do everything we can to be as proactive in terms of notifying people of dangers and emergencies," Judge said.

Judge said city officials were also on alert because Cuyahoga County recently reported a spike in overdose deaths over the Memorial Day weekend.

The mayor said the message was a way to reach a lot of people in a short amount of time.

"If you have a family member who may be an addict and you got the message, maybe you check on them a little more, maybe you seek out the help, maybe this is a wake up call for people," Judge said.

It's the first time Barberton has used the Nixle system to warn residents about drugs, but some residents questioned if it was an appropriate alert.

"To me, it's a mixture of feelings because everyone has their own free will. To me, it won't change anything really," said 19-year-old Isaac Poff.

The city also faced some criticism that alert could actually encourage those struggling with addiction to seek out the drugs.

"I'm sure we'll get criticized, but we we want to try to do everything we can to notify the public," Judge said.

Tugg Massa, who runs Akron Say No To Dope, supports the immediate dangerous drug alert and wishes more communities would do the same.

"Why wouldn't we? Why wouldn't we let the community know that there's potential danger?" We do it for Amber Alerts. We do it for traffic stuff. When we see something deadly, why wouldn't we inform the community? The community needs to be aware of this kind of thing," Massa said.

Mayor Judge said it will be a case-by-case basis on whether the city sends out future alerts over opioid concerns in neighborhoods.