CLEVELAND - A county-wide focused initiative on heroin and heroin-related deaths was announced Wednesday in Cuyahoga County.
The county board of health has an operating opiate task force and the heroin initiative will work in conjunction with them to pool resources together, expertise and best practices to identify and target strategies that have worked in other communities to get the deadly drug, and its dealers, off the streets.
Executive Ed Fitzgerald, medical examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson and Cuyahoga County Sheriff Bob Reid joined law enforcement and medical experts to make the announcement.
"More young people are experimenting with opiates," said FitzGerald. "The face of heroin use has changed dramatically: affecting all races, all socio-economic classes, both sexes and the inner and outer-ring suburbs - all have been tragically impacted. We cannot stand by. We will work, together, to stop this epidemic, and stop the loss of life and the loss of quality of life."
In 2011, there were 107 heroin related deaths. In the fist six months of this year, there have been 79 heroin related deaths. At this rate, officials said, there will be 160 heroin related deaths by the end of 2012.
"In ever increasing numbers, and with devastating effect, we have seen the loss of life, we have seen the impact this drug is having on our community," said Gilson. "There are points of intervention that we can study, develop and use to target heroin use, and change its effect on individuals, and our community."
"The use of heroin is significantly increasing in the city of Cleveland and the surrounding suburbs," said Dr. Joan Papp, MetroHealth emergency medicine physician. "MetroHealth is creating new protocols to identify and treat heroin users so we can stem the tide of overdoses due to heroin."
Officials said if the trend continues for the rest of this year, there will have been a 300 percent increase in heroin related deaths since 2007.
"This may be the first year that we write heroin on more death certificates than homicide," said Gilson.
The medical examiner released these mid-year heroin-related death findings:
- 79 deaths in Cuyahoga County as of June 30, 2012
- Of that, 22 were female and 57 were male
- 27.85% of heroin-related deaths in Cuyahoga County are female
- 77.22% of heroin-related deaths in Cuyahoga County are white
- 36 heroin-related deaths happened in Cleveland, or 45.57%
- 37 happened in suburban communities, meaning 46.84% were out of the county
Heroin data below for Cuyahoga County over the past 5 years:
- In 2007, there were 40 heroin deaths (6 were female, 7.5% between ages 19-29)
- In 2008, there were 64 heroin deaths (17 were female, 18.75% between ages 19-29)
- In 2009, there were 64 heroin deaths (16 were female, 26.56% between ages 19-29)
- In 2010, there were 90 heroin deaths (17 were female, 28.89% between ages 19-29)
- In 2011, there were 107 heroin deaths (25 were female, 25.23 between ages 19-29)
The initiative is a partnership between law enforcement and MetroHealth Medical Center.