HAMILTON, Ohio -- Federal officials declared Butler County a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area this week.
Butler County was one of 10 HIDTAs designated across the country Monday by the White House's drug polity office.
The designation allows the areas to receive federal resources for developing drug control efforts, according to James Carroll, the deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
"Drug traffickers are fueling the opioid crisis and poisoning our communities, so we have to be relentless in bringing them to justice," Carroll said. "This new funding will allow law enforcement to disrupt trafficking operations in key areas so we can save lives, strengthen our communities, and safeguard our country."
The Butler County Undercover Regional Narcotics Taskforce will use the additional resources to target drug traffickers, according to Sheriff Richard Jones. He's hoping to get federal agents assigned to the unit.
"This new funding will help us do what we do even better," Jones said. "The drug traffickers will continue using any platform they can to bring this poison to Butler County and we don’t want them or their drugs here."
Jones said he's been working on getting the new financial help for two years.
"You can't do anything without money," he said. "You've got to be able to pay employees, you've got to be able to have vehicles, you've got to have space, you've got to be able to prosecute people. This is going to give us the edge we've been needing for at least 10 years."
Drug treatment numbers show the extent of the problem. Local alcohol and drug addiction treatment service provider Sojourner Recover Services has tripled in size since 2014, according to Scott Goering, the president and CEO of the Community Health Alliance.
Goering said drug dealers are becoming more predatory with his potential clients.
"The drug dealers are actually lacing the methamphetamines and cocaine with fentanyl because they know how addictive it is," he said. "That's terrifying."
Fentanyl is the main killer in overdose cases, according to Butler County Coroner Dr. Liza Mannix. There were 195 overdose deaths in Butler County in 2015. They spiked to 232 in 2017, and are on pace to hit 180 this year.
"If HIDTA can decrease the supply and we continue working on decreasing the demand — which is treatment and prevention — it's really it, but we've got to stop what's going on right now," Mannix said.
The HIDTA program was created in 1988. There are 29 HIDTAs across the 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C. Ohio's HIDTA region includes Adams, Cuyahoga, Fairfield, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, Scioto, Stark, Summit and Warren counties, in addition to the new addition of Butler.