Morgan County, Martinsville leaders crack down on drug epidemic

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MARTINSVILLE, Ind. – Martinsville is joining a growing list of cities filing suit against pharmaceutical companies.

Monday, the city said it filed a lawsuit against five pharmaceutical drug manufacturers and three whole sale drug distributors.

“We’re left to hold the pieces of trying to put our community back together. I mean it’s caused blight issues, our crime’s up, and so we just, this is just something that we felt like we needed to do,” Martinsville Mayor Shannon Kohl said.

Kohl said they’ve been working on the suit for a couple of months prior to the filing.

“Mostly we just felt like it was time to hold the manufacturers accountable. There’s things that they were supposed to report that they didn’t report as far as suspicious drug ordering, things that they were supposed to follow through on that they didn’t do with the FDA,” Kohl said. “We just want to hold them accountable.”

The Martinsville police chief said they’re seeing cases of officers exposed to opioids while on the job, hundreds of juveniles facing arrest, juveniles overdosing and crimes linked to drugs.

“Bottom line is it’s killing our community members, it’s putting our public safety officials in jeopardy by going out there,” Chief Matt Long said. “We’ve got to figure this out then we’ve got to figure this out together.”

He said the police department runs a program that gives officers time outside of their everyday work schedule to try to combat the drug problem, but later this year they plan to join the Morgan County P.A.C.E. team.

The grant-funded program started last year, and now says it’s looking to expand.

“More areas, more counties, more agencies involved sharing information is going to provide more positive impact I think for the future,” Morgan County Sheriff’s Captain Brent Worth said.

Worth said since July, the team has made 80 arrests and seized more than $11,000 in asset forfeitures. In just the past week, it’s arrested four people and seized cash, marijuana and more than 64 grams of methamphetamine between traffic stops and a suspicious call.

“I think the problem’s a lot worse than we and the community realize it is,” PACE team member Mooresville Police Sgt. Christopher Hester said.

“We realize this is going on in our communities, we live in these communities and it’s sad to see,” PACE team member Morgan County Sheriff’s Deputy Cody St. John said.

The team’s grant is up for renewal Tuesday.

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