Last year, the nation was shocked by a vicious HIV epidemic in Scott County, Indiana. While a community such as Scott County would usually report about 10 HIV cases per year, in 2015 they reported 138 cases.
As it turns out, the epidemic was caused by the widespread use of an intravenous drug, oxymorphone. Known by its commercial name of Opana, oxymorphone is a potent painkiller that can be dissolved and then injected for an intense and long-lasting high.
The HIV outbreak was so worrying that, for the first time in the State’s history, the authorities implemented a needle exchange program in the hopes of reducing the spread of the virus through dirty needles. Now, the authorities believe they have put a halt to the epidemic by catching a local ring of local suppliers.
Increased Supply of Injectable Painkillers Led to Southern Indiana HIV Outbreak
For six months, the DEA and local and state law enforcement built their case against the Southern Indiana ring of methamphetamine and oxymorphone ring. Last month, they obtained five federal search warrants that enabled them to apprehend 10 suspected members of the criminal organization.
According to the investigators, Scott County residents Bennito Rodriguez and his wife, Brooklynn G. Mack, were at the head of the drug ring, which obtained its supply from sources in Detroit, Indianapolis, and Louisville. Arrests were also made in these cities based on the information obtained from the Scott County investigation.
Local and federal authorities collaborated on this investigation because, in the words of Scott County prosecutor Jason Mount: “The DEA and the US Attorney have tools in their toolbox that are not available in state prosecutions, which makes these types of outcomes difficult for us to pursue with local resources alone.”
Could Recent Arrests Increase Flow of Drugs Into Southern Indiana?
DEA Associate Special Agent Karen Flowers told reporters that the arrests mark “the beginning of a safer, stronger and healthier Scott County.” Other officials working on the case, however, pointed to the need for effective drug addiction treatment to supplement the prosecution of drug dealers.
For example, United States Attorney Josh Minkler stated: “A public health crisis will not be solved by simply arresting those who illegally sell drugs. It also requires a reduction in demand for illegal drugs. That can only be accomplished by all of us-federal, state and local authorities along with public and private partnerships working together for prevention and treatment.”
The war on drugs has put record numbers of American citizens behind bars, but the national rates of drug use and abuse remain high. This clearly shows that prosecuting drug dealers—and much less drug users—will not solve the problem of drug abuse in the United States. It’s likely that others dealers will come fill the gap left by the Scott County drug ring.
Need Defense Against Your Drug Charge?
At Hessler Law, we are committed to giving every one of our clients the best chances possible when they face the Indiana criminal justice system. If you’re facing charges and want to speak with an Indianapolis drug defense lawyer, call attorney Sean Hessler with Hessler Law today at (317) 886-8800 and we’ll give you a free and confidential consultation.