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Ohio Airman helps combat opioid epidemic

By Airman 1st Class Alexis Wade | 179th Airlift Wing | Oct. 8, 2019

MANSFIELD, Ohio – Staff Sgt. Carolyn Kinzel, a C-130H Hercules loadmaster assigned to the 179th Airlift Wing, is helping combat the opioid epidemic in Ohio.

Kinzel joined the 179th Airlift Wing in 2015 and graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Geospatial Sciences in 2018. In May 2018, she began work as an Ohio Air National Guard Counterdrug Task Force criminal analyst with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Cleveland.

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

Opioid abuse is a nationwide problem that has hit Ohio particularly hard.

James Goodwin, resident agent in charge of the DEA Cleveland office, said the Ohio Guard counterdrug Soldiers enhance the DEA's capabilities and resources and "have directly impacted the community of northeast Ohio."

Kinzel called her work extremely fulfilling.

"I am directly helping the case agents with the background work they need for the targets they're researching," she said. "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 touched the community of Cleveland and is estimated to have prevented thousands of people from accidentally overdosing on fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin, said Kinzel. Some dealers mix it with other drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, to cut costs. This leads to unintentional overdoses.

To combat this, the Cleveland City Police Department provided 15,000 to 20,000 fentanyl test strips that let drug users test for fentanyl before consumption, potentially saving their lives.

But the police department could not map out the most effective locations to place these test strips to prevent overdoses.

Police provided Kinzel with the overdose data, and she created a map that identified more than 100 Cleveland areas where there were a lot of overdoses. Strips were distributed in these targeted areas.

"I jumped on this opportunity to exercise my mapping skills from my degree," said Kinzel. "We are directly affecting the population that needs the most help – the people who haven't gotten treatment, and those who are still addicted. Using the maps I create, we can give them these tools."