FAYETTEVILLE, WV (WVNS) – Our coverage of the major issues facing our local communities continues, as we turn our attention to Fayette County.

Fayette County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Rod Perdue told 59News his department does not go a day without seeing the toll the opioid epidemic has taken on the area.

In a CDC study from 2020, West Virginia ranked highest of all 50 states in overdose deaths per capita. In fact, the margin between West Virginia and the second highest state was larger than the margin between the second highest state and the 42nd highest state.

Perdue told 59News that since addiction rates in the area are so high, crime organizations from out of state are now targeting rural West Virginia as a place to make money quickly selling drugs.

“You always hear it on the streets, and it is a fact. You’ve got people coming from Detroit, you’ve got people coming from Columbus, and different other big cities from other states, and they’re thriving in West Virginia because they see the money there. And the addiction is so bad that they can come here and set up shop and make a lot of money,” said Perdue.

Chief Deputy Perdue says the introduction of fentanyl into the county ratcheted the drug problem up to a new level, with more lives being lost to addiction and overdoses every day. 

He also says fentanyl makes it both more difficult and more dangerous for local law enforcement to try to deal with the drug problem.

Back in September, two officers with the Oak Hill Police Department were attacked when fentanyl was thrown in their faces during a traffic stop. The officers had to be treated with Narcan following the incident.

Perdue said he has seen similar situations, and that Narcan, masks, and fentanyl-proof gloves have essentially become part of the uniform

“Hitting houses on search warrants, you go inside and they’ve got tables full of fentanyl and heroin, and it gets into the A/C unit, the HVAC unit, and now it’s going all through the house. You’ve got to turn it off, wear proper face pieces for a mask, stuff like that,” said the Chief Deputy.

But the opioid epidemic is not the only battle local law enforcement agencies are fighting.

Uncompetitive pay rates and demanding working conditions have contributed to a nationwide law enforcement officer shortage, with more officers retiring every year than there are joining the force.

So how do local law enforcement agencies manage the constant battle against the opioid epidemic while their numbers continue to decrease?

“That’s the million-dollar question,” said Perdue. “A lot of guys sitting in my shoes would love to have the answer to that. But what we do, we go a day at a time. One day at a time is all we can do. Keep training and keep doing what we do.”