PDT Staff Writer
Several weeks ago, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine was in Portsmouth to gather data on how Scioto County took on its drug problem over the last several years. DeWine told those in attendance at The Counseling Center on Court Street that he wanted to use the success Scioto County has had in dealing with the drug epidemic as a springboard for his statewide program.
“There is a heroin epidemic in Ohio,” DeWine said Monday during a news conference to announce disturbing new figures about the use of heroin in the state and the formation of his new Heroin Unit. The data, gathered from coroners across the state, show that the use of heroin has increased dramatically over the last four years.
“Today we have heroin in every county,” DeWine told the Daily Times. “And we have communities in this state that will not admit they have a drug problem.”
DeWine called attention to that point when he made his announcement.
“Communities have to wake up. If you don’t think you have a problem, you are probably wrong,” DeWine said. “Local law enforcement understands the problem. As I have traveled the state, over and over sheriffs and police and coroners tell me how bad it is. Unfortunately, there are people out there who don’t believe heroin is really in their communities. They don’t want to believe that this can be them — that this can be their child who is addicted or who is going to die from a heroin overdose. The numbers tell a different story. We know that, at minimum, 606 families across this state were directly impacted in 2012 by a heroin death.”
“We have to fight this epidemic at the grassroots level – community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood,” DeWine said. “We have to get mad and say, ‘Enough is enough!”
The Attorney General’s Heroin Unit, which will include investigators, lawyers, and drug abuse awareness specialists, will assist in combating issues associated with the heroin epidemic, such as crime, addiction, and overdose deaths.
“New data our office has gathered suggests 11 people die in Ohio every week from a heroin overdose,” DeWine said. “Heroin abuse and addiction has been a problem for a long time, one I keep hearing about as I talk with parents, prosecutors, and law enforcement around the state. These new efforts to fight heroin will not be the full solution to Ohio’s heroin problem, but by providing what services we can, we hope to save lives and prevent addiction.”
The decision to create the specialized unit was made after new data gathered by the Attorney General’s Office in the past month revealed a 107-percent increase in heroin deaths among more than half of Ohio’s counties. The data was collected from 47 Ohio coroner’s offices with complete heroin overdose data for 2010, 2011, and 2012.
The results are as follows:
- 2010: 292 heroin overdose deaths
- 2011: 395 heroin overdose deaths
- 2012: 606 heroin overdose deaths
The reporting counties with the largest number of heroin overdoses in 2012 include:
- Cuyahoga County: 161
- Franklin County: 73
- Hamilton County: 54
- Montgomery County: 93
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.