BANNOCK COUNTY, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - On Tuesday, the Bannock County Sheriff's Office announced, after years of fighting the growing drug trafficking problem in the region, help is on the way.
"We have seen a rapid, almost wildfire-type effect of opiates, heroin, and prescription drug abuse," Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said. "It's being dispensed here and there is a market for it here. That's what we're concerned about."
Nielsen said, about one year ago, he and the law enforcement agencies from both Bingham and Bonneville counties had been collaborating to find ways to put an end to the region-wide problem.
And the solutions have been expensive.
That's when they decided to reach out to the Department of Justice's National Drug Control Policy, who has a program that helps counties with high-trafficking rates. And it worked.
This week, Bannock County was named one of 16 counties across 13 states as a High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and will be given grant money to combat this issue once federal funds are made available.
The amount of grant money has not been decided upon yet.
Nielsen said this grant money will be shared among eastern Idaho's city, county, and state law enforcement agencies.
He said the problem has become so bad, his deputies now have to carry the drug Narcan, which is used to help people who have overdosed on opioids.
"I've handed that out to every one of my officers. We've already had to use it four times. We saved three people who were actually flat-lined," Nielsen added.
In September, the Bannock County commissioners, along with both the Chubbuck and Pocatello mayors, pushed for a bond to raise money to build a crisis center in order to give drug offenders a chance to rehabilitate after serving their sentence. Nielsen said this will also help the high-intensity drug trafficking issue in southeastern Idaho by putting a figurative "lock" on that revolving door of addiction.