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Airman Helps Combat Opioid Epidemic

  • Published
  • By Story by Airman 1st Class Alexis Wade
  • 179th Airlift Wing

Over the past several years, Ohio has been heavily struck by the opioid epidemic that has devastated the nation, stealing loved ones from families and tearing apart communities. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Ohio ranked second in highest rate of drug overdose deaths involving opioids in the United States in 2017. Since 2017, numerous agencies throughout Ohio have worked tirelessly to combat this disastrous epidemic, and have had success in their work. Ohio’s opiate overdoses declined 22% from the national average in 2018, and the future for stopping this opiate epidemic is looking bright thanks to individuals who dedicate their lives to ending this epidemic.

For Staff Sgt. Carolyn Kinzel, C-130 Loadmaster with the 179th Airlift Wing, Mansfield, Ohio, and Ohio Air National Guard Counterdrug Task Force criminal analyst with the Cleveland Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), her efforts directly contribute to ending the opioid epidemic in Ohio.

Kinzel joined the 179th Airlift Wing in 2015 as a C-130 loadmaster and graduated in 2018 from Ohio University with a degree in Geospatial Sciences. Through encounters with fellow members at the 179th AW, Kinzel applied and got hired on with the Ohio National Guard counter task force as a criminal analyst in May of 2018, and has been making great strides since.

Kinzel said she is grateful to have the opportunity to work with the DEA, and although her workload varies case by case, the end goal is always helping the community end the opioid epidemic.

James Goodwin, Resident Agent in Charge of the DEA Cleveland office, agreed that the work accomplished by these members is impacting the community around them every day.

“The Ohio National Guard Counterdrug personnel assigned to the DEA Cleveland office have directly impacted the community of northeast Ohio,” said Goodwin.

Goodwin said that through their work, the Ohio National Guard Personnel have been a tremendous asset to the DEA intelligence unit, as they enhance the DEA’s capabilities and resources by bringing their experiences from the Guard to the DEA.

“The work I do here is extremely fulfilling,” said Kinzel. “I am directly helping the case agents with the background work they need for the targets they’re researching. I will meet with the agents at the beginning of the case and my work helps decide the suspects they’re going to pursue, whether it be within Ohio or across the United States.”

One of Kinzel’s most recent accomplishments through her work has touched the community of Cleveland, potentially saving 15,000 to 20,000 lives from accidental Fentanyl overdoses.

Fentanyl is a powerful, synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin, said Kinzel. Unbeknownst to users, some dealers are mixing fentanyl with other drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA. This is because of Fentanyl’s high potency, it takes very little to produce a high, making it a cheaper option for the dealers. In doing so, this leads to unintentional overdoses.

To combat this, the Cleveland City Police Department had access to approximately 15,000 to 20,000 fentanyl test stripes, which gives users to ability to test their drugs for Fentanyl before consuming, potentially saving their lives.

These test strips help those who have not found help yet and are just trying to feed their addiction, and are getting caught in the crossfire of fentanyl being mixed in to their typical drugs, said Kinzel.

The only problem was that the police department did not have the ability to map out exact locations in order to know where to place the test strips to be most effective in preventing overdoses.

The police department provided Kinzel with the overdose data, and from that she created a map that identified over 100 businesses in the Cleveland area that were to possibly place the test strips that were in areas that ranked high in overdoses.

“I jumped on this opportunity to exercise my mapping skills from my degree, I was happy to use something I studied in college to impact the community in a direct way.” Said Kinzel.

“We are directly affecting the population that needs the most help,” said Kinzel. “The people who haven’t gotten treatment, and that are still addicted. Using the map I created, we can give them these tools.”

In Kinzel’s year of being a part of the Ohio National Guard Counter Task Force, she has already made a huge impact. Looking to the future, Kinzel hopes to continue working as a criminal analyst, gaining even more experience and knowledge so that wherever her career takes her, she will stay a vital part of the DEA by continuing to make an impact on the community around her.