Task Force Gets National Recognition for Reno Pill Mill Bust
More than 50 people are getting recognized for one of the top investigations in the country, receiving the 2018 Multi-Agency Exploitation of Opioid Strategic Initiatives award.
More than 50 people are getting recognized for one of the top investigations in the country, receiving the 2018 Multi-Agency Exploitation of Opioid Strategic Initiatives award. The task force is made up of local, state and federal agencies.
"We had a common goal," Daniel Neill, DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge said. "We've got to protect the citizens of this state and protect the citizens of this city. So for that, everyone worked together, worked really, really well and had great success in that investigation."
The recognition comes after the 2016 arrest of nine people in a prescription drug ring. Richie West and seven others pleaded guilty for their roles, avoiding prison time. Dr. Robert Rand pleaded guilty for drug distribution and involuntary manslaughter. He is serving 10 years in federal prison.
"That's the kind of cases that we want to put forward so it doesn't have to go to trial where there are questions that their guilt is so obvious that they plea out as part of the investigation," Michael Hickok, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the FBI in Nevada said.
Nicholas Trutanich is the U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada. He says the Rand case is the most meaningful and impactful cases in northern Nevada in more than a decade.
"We shut down a dangerous pill mill that was prescribing opioids at an alarming rate, poisoning a community with deadly drugs," Trutanich said. "We put a dirty doctor behind bars and we had some semblance of justice for the victims of the opioid epidemic."
Cyndi Yenich was on-hand for Thursday's awards. Rand over-prescribed oxycodone to her son, Michael. He overdosed and died at the age of 33.
"We're really lucky to have this group of men and women working diligently and they're so committed to doing good for the community," Yenich said.
Michael Yenich's nickname was Bub, so his mother named the Bubs Hugs Foundation in his honor. She visits schools throughout Nevada to educate children on the dangers of opioids and drug addiction.
"We need to lift and rise above the stigma so those that are addicted can reach out for help and not be ashamed," Yenich said. "There's people who love them and people who want to help them. Please, don't be afraid. Reach out. Your life is worth it."
The Washoe County Sheriff's Office is trying to fight opioid addiction in its jail. When inmates with addictions are released, WCSO provides services for them to get help. It also hands out Naloxone, which counteracts opioid overdoses.
"Their level of tolerance dips, so that when they get out of jail, they use the same dose they used before they went in and that's where those overdoses occur," Sheriff Darin Balaam said. "Any death, any use, we have to go after it and we have to be aggressive. So we're doing both on the enforcement side but also on helping people with addiction, getting back on their feet."
The Reno Police Department is using a $1 million grant to fight drug abuse. Chief Jason Soto says it is having a positive impact on the community.
"When you see more resources go at it, you see a better result," Soto said. "So we're actually starting to see better results but it doesn't mean that it's not still extremely challenging and difficult."
More than 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017. Officials say it has sharply risen during the last three years but that it appears to be leveling out. Their goal is to reduce those numbers as soon as possible.
"I think we are holding the line right now but I think we are making progress and addressing the problem for Nevada," Hickok said.
Medical Examiners are tracking the number of drug overdose deaths. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies continue to work together to keep illegal drugs off the streets, as well as the people who sell them.
"We're all short on resources throughout law enforcement, pretty much in the state, and we've learned that we have to work together in order to have a better impact and better effect on crime," Soto said.
"When we work together, we're unstoppable," Neill said.