Strongsville police giving up control of I-71 to dedicate manpower to fight opioid epidemic

Troopers will patrol interstate starting in Sept.
Posted at 4:34 PM, Aug 23, 2017

Strongsville police are putting a new plan in place to tackle the heroin epidemic sweeping through Northeast Ohio.

The department is teaming up with the Ohio State Highway Patrol to allow troopers to take control of of the five-mile stretch of Interstate 71 that runs through Strongsville.

Officers deal with about 1,600 calls for service and citations on I-71 annually. Shifting them from the interstate and into neighborhoods will allow them to focus more manpower on the opioid epidemic, officials said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re not going to wait until the bottom falls out, we’re trying to get ahead of it,” said Police Chief Mark Fender.

The extra resources will allow for the creation of an Opioid Task Force, headed by Lt. Michael Campbell.

“Over the years, we’ve tried to arrest our way out of this and it is obviously not working,” Lt. Campbell said. “So we’re trying new approaches.”

Another new approach is the start of a Safe Passages program, modeled after other Northeast Ohio cities. It allows addicts to come into the police department and seek help without criminal consequences.

Troopers will take control of I-71 through Strongsville on Sept. 11.

The city is also hosting a series of three addiction awareness forums in September.

They will be held at the Strongsville Recreation Center at 6:30 p.m. on the following days:

Part 1, September 12: The Neurobiology of Addiction and
how it Impacts the Family System and Society.

Part 2, September 19: Available Resources from Family
Support Groups and Recovery Groups
Part 3, September 26: Addiction and the Criminal Justice
and Health Care Systems