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Sheriff addresses opioid crisis with Rotary Club

Jacob Smith • Apr 24, 2018 at 6:08 PM

Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan spoke to the Lebanon Noon Rotary Club on Tuesday about the nationwide opioid crisis.

The Wilson County Commission appointed Bryan as sheriff in 2012 after current Wilson County Commissioner Terry Ashe retired. Bryan was re-elected sheriff in 2014.

Bryan has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience with the Lebanon Police Department and Wilson County Sheriff’s Office. He began his career in law enforcement with the Lebanon Police Department in 1989 and joined the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office in 1999.

“In 30 years in law enforcement, I’ve seen things change,” said Bryan. “From the time I started, back when I was 18 years old, things have changed. When we started, the main concern we were addressing at the time was cocaine – cocaine, marijuana, different things like that. We found that as we got more aggressive toward certain drugs, it turned to something else that was more readily available.”

Bryan described the transition from cocaine to methamphetamine to current issues with synthetic opioids and fentanyl.

“Synthetic opioids are the drugs shipped here from another country,” said Bryan. “They look like, smell like, even have the same markings on them as regular pills. But they’re homemade somewhere in some foreign country.”

“Does anyone know what fentanyl is? It’s an elephant tranquilizer,” said Bryan. “We were one of the first counties in the state to submit – we didn’t know what it was – we were one of the first counties in the state to submit some type of evidence to the [Tennessee Bureau of Investigation] crime lab to contain fentanyl.”

Bryan said the problem isn’t just in Wilson County, though. It’s happening nationwide.

“We are not going to arrest our way out of it,” said Bryan. “We can continue to put these addicts in jail. What’s that going to do? It’s going to cost the taxpayers in this county to get them off of it. That’s not the right thing to do. We need to get them help, but they don’t need to be up there in the Wilson County Jail.”

Bryan said addicts are weaned off the drugs while they’re in jail, but they need some other system in place to keep them off drugs after they leave.

“Nobody’s immune to it, up to and including me. I lost a nephew off of it,” said Bryan. “Do you think that was a bad call? We need some help; the county needs some help, because we can’t do it by ourselves, and we’re not going to arrest our way out of it.”

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