Drug task force gets $50K boost

MARTINS FERRY – The Belmont County Commissioners presented a check for $50,000 to the Belmont County Drug Task Force Thursday afternoon.

“The money will go towards equipment and towards operations,” said Drug Task Force Commander John McFarland, who accepted the check on behalf of the Drug Task Force. “With the growing drug problem in Belmont County, we hope to show them that the efforts that all of the task force members are making to clean up the county. This will give us stability and provide us with the equipment that we need.”

Belmont County Commissioner Ginny Favede has discovered in the last year that many of services of agencies in Belmont County are in fact being affected by drugs use.

Tri-County Help Center and Harmony House Children’s Advocacy Center see the results of drug abuse by working women and children who are directly affected.

Another problem agencies have seen in Belmont County is the inability for men and women to pass drug testing.

“The Belmont County Commissioners are trying to create an initiative against drug abuse in Belmont County and we are bringing together all the different entities that over the past year I have found that they are being affected by drug use,” said Favede. “My children’s services workers tell me that the majority of the homes they go into to remove children and drug use is the problem, primarily heroin.”

McFarland said that in the last two weeks, The Belmont County Drug Task Force has made several arrests of people traveling to Pittsburgh to pick up heroin. It has also been in the last several weeks there has been reports that the new strain of heroin, which contains traces of Fentanyl, a legal pain killer, has caused 22 deaths.

“What we are trying to do is bring together all of our agencies so that we have a united front by investing in the drug task force to eradicate drugs from our county,” said Favede.

Both Favede and McFarland agreed that this could not have been done without the help of Belmont County Auditor Andy Sutak.

According to Favede, when they first talked about giving money to the drug task force, Sutak didn’t blink an eye but instead try to find out where the money was going to come from.

Each agency had a speaker that talked about how drug use has affected his or her services.

Among the speakers were Belmont County Sheriff Dave Lucas, Executive Director Cathy Campbell for Tri-County Help Center; Executive Director Leslie Vassilaros for Harmony House Children’s Advocacy Center; Sandy Nicholoff, executive director of Cross Roads Counseling; Executive Director Lisa Fijalkowski for Belmont County Department of Job & Family Services; Mike Schlanz, supervisor for BCDJFS/Ohio Means Jobs and John LaRoche, supervisor for Belmont County Children’s Services.

Van Dyne can be reached at kvandyne@timeleadersonline.com.