ELYRIA — The Lorain County Drug Task Force is growing to better combat the opioid epidemic, county Sheriff Phil Stammitti said.
The sheriff said that starting Sunday, Lt. Heath Tester will join the Drug Task Force as a supervisor. Chief Deputy Dennis Cavanaugh will remain commander of the Drug Task Force, but Stammitti said given the scope of the opioid crisis he wanted another supervisor working with the agency as it begins a new collaborative effort with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Cleveland office.
The DEA announced Monday that it would be shifting three agents to Lorain County, which is classified as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, to help with investigations. The DEA also is providing greater electronic surveillance capacity and plans to bring in a single-engine plane to the county to assist with investigations.
The federal government is providing overtime pay to local law enforcement officers involved in the collaboration, as well.
The new collaborative will be housed at a Burns Road building that the county is purchasing from Lorain County Community College. The county is paying for the building with $100,000 worth of scholarships to cover the education of those studying police work, criminal justice and substance abuse counseling.
Stammitti said he also plans to assign at least two more deputies to the Drug Task Force. He said the majority of current Drug Task Force workers are retired police officers who returned to law enforcement, but younger blood is needed.
He said the older officers will remain with the Drug Task Force to provide guidance.
“They’re good officers, they’ve got a lot of experience and they know what’s going on,” Stammitti said.
Stammitti also said Lt. Daniel Ashdown will be assuming leadership of the road patrol, duties that Cavanaugh has largely been handling since former Capt. Rick Thomas left his job with the Sheriff’s Office earlier this year to return to working as an investigator for county Prosecutor Dennis Will.