Jasper Police Chief Connie Rowe introduced Morris to Rotary members. She announced his professional and educational background first, and then Rowe spoke of how she knew Morris personally.
“When I came to the Jasper Police Department in July 2011, a series of events led us to a place where the Jasper Police Department developed a relationship with federal law enforcement agencies and historically that had not been a circumstance that existed for my department, and it was very, very positive thing for our department,” Rowe said.
She continued to speak of how the relationship started between the JPD and the DEA’s office when she became friends with the former ASAC Greg Borland, who retired in April 2012.
“When he left I mourned his loss and thought, ‘Who in world are they going to send, and I’m not going to know him. And, it’s going to be bad, and we’re going to lose our connections to the DEA. Oh my goodness, what are we going to do?’” Rowe said. “We waited for a few months, and they told me that we’re going to get this guy and he’s coming from Louisiana, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, they’re sending us an LSU fan.’”
After an eruption of laughter from the crowd, Rowe “proudly” called Morris to the podium. He talked about how devoted Rowe is to the police department and how beneficial she and other officers are in the community. Diving into his presentation, Morris spoke about the two pressing issues that are happening within Alabama and the United States — the number of heroin overdoses and prescription drug abuse.
“I want to talk to you about two things today that are very prevalent in our community, in our state and in your community, and it probably will catch some of you by surprise. This is a graphical representation of the young people who were killed by an overdose of heroin in Birmingham, Ala., last year, and that’s over 80,” Morris said. “... We did an investigation; we just recently concluded it and arrested 50 heroin traffickers in Birmingham. The average, which I just did a very crude average, of our drugs that we bought or seized in that investigation, we made over 110, 120 heroin purchases throughout the investigation, and I took 27 random samples ... Out of those 27, our average purity level was 46 percent, and I’m here to tell you the highest purity level in our investigation was 98.2 percent pure heroin.
“You will not survive an injection of 98.2 percent pure heroin. ... They are literally going to die with a needle in their vein, in their arm.”
Morris continued to state some interesting statistical information. He claimed that there were 14 heroin overdose deaths in 2010, followed by more than 80 in 2012, which has doubled or even tripled since then. “That number right there is a 1,750 percent rate of increase in two years for heroin,” Morris said.
The second problem he lectured on was the issue with prescription drug abuse among young people today, which Morris said is directly related to heroin use. It is now cheaper to purchase heroin on the streets rather than buy prescription drugs on the black market.
“Our studies show over 55 percent of the people 12 years of age or older who abuse prescription drugs get them from their family members or friends for free,” Morris said.
It is a cycle of addiction, once a person builds a tolerance to one drug he or she move on to another drug. The majority of heroin consumed by addicts and drug users in the United States comes from Mexico and South America, which Morris calls Mexican brown powder heroin. Some of the heroin “hot spots” in Alabama today are located in parts of Hueytown, Shelby County, Tuscaloosa, Gardendale, UAB and Homewood because there was an overdose death there last year.
So, what is the DEA doing to help correct the problem? Morris said they have conducted National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days twice a year where community members throughout Alabama, and throughout the nation, are asked to come and drop off old or unused prescriptions at central locations in their area for proper disposal.
“We do two a year. We do it nationwide. We have over 6,000 collection sites nationwide, and Jasper Police is a participant in this,” Morris said. “We have to get the word out that there will be no questions asked. You can drive up and drop off as many drugs as you want, pharmaceutical drugs. If you bring a bag of heroin, we’re going to have to talk ... Just so we’re clear. You’re probably not going to get out of the parking lot.”
The next Take-Back Day is scheduled for Oct. 26, 2013, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.dea.gov or call 800-882-9539.