FLORENCE, Ky. – Following what state authorities called ‘one of the largest heroin busts in Kentucky history,’ U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell met with community leaders in Florence Friday to discuss the region’s heroine woes.
At his meeting with community leaders, McConnell called Northern Kentucky the “epicenter of a serious heroin epidemic.” Less than 12 hours before the event, four people were arrested when agents found about two pounds of black tar heroin in busts from Elsmere to Lexington.
Northern Kentucky Drug Strike Force director Bill Mark said agents carried out a search warrant at a home on Spring Street in Elsmere and a room at the Turfside Motel on Dixie Highway in Florence. The searches revealed about a half-pound of black tar heroin and led to the arrests of 22-year-old Lauren Summers, 27-year-old Duran Wombles and 28-year-old Tamara Wombles of Elsmere.
Elsmere agents contacted the Lexington Police Department who later found about a pound-and-a-half of black tar heroin at an apartment in the 1300 block of Village Drive in Lexington.
Officers arrested 27-year-old Jesus Lizarraras-Estuoillo and charged him with felony drug trafficking. He could face up to 10 years in prison.
Investigators said the Wombles' supplied several heroin dealers in Northern Kentucky.
“(I am) addressing the scourge of heroin abuse in Kentucky,” McConnell said during what he called a “heroin listening session” in Florence. “I’m here to hear from you how to fix it.”
Panelists at the event included Kentuckians from the medical, public health and law-enforcement fields, the business community and an individual in recovery.
According to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, the state police crime lab went from 451 samples of heroin in 2011 to 2,382 in just the first nine months of 2013 – a jump of more than 400 percent in two years.
In 2011, Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties accounted for nearly 60 percent of Kentucky’s heroin prosecutions, even though the counties contain less than 10 percent of the state’s population, McConnell said.
In one year, Northern Kentucky heroin overdose deaths doubled — from 33 in 2011 to 66 in 2012.
“That is the kind of statistic that cannot be tolerated,” McConnell said. “Northern Kentucky has been hardest hit partially because of its proximity to Cincinnati, a center for heroin trafficking.”
McConnell said the information and opinions he received at the forum would be taken back to Washington D.C. and discussed during testimony at the Senate Drug Caucus later this month.
“I believe we can combat the rise of heroin abuse in Kentucky,” McConnell said. “We can, and we must.”
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WCPO's Holly Pennebaker contributed to this report.