COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine called on Ohio communities to take more seriously what he calls a heroin epidemic during a press conference Monday.
"Communities have to wake up. If you don't think you have a problem, you are probably wrong," said DeWine, who said that 11 people in the state die every week from a heroin overdose.
The number of heroin overdose deaths has more than doubled in three years in Ohio, his office reported - from 292 in 2010 to 606 in 2012.
DeWine called the conference to announce the formation of a new unit within his office whose task will be to combat crime, addiction and overdose deaths associated with heroin use in Ohio. The heroin unit will be comprised of investigators, lawyers and drug abuse awareness specialists.
The announcement comes a week after Lorain County authorities battled with a batch of synthetic fentanyl that was sold as heroin, causing 23 overdoses and at least two deaths in only a few days.
"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," DeWine added.
Cuyahoga County has stepped up its efforts to combat heroin in recent months, as well, and this week will host a summit, "Heroin: A Crisis Facing Our Entire Community," with DeWine's office, the Cleveland Clinic, the U.S. Attorney's Office and other partners to develop a community action plan.
Cuyahoga County, which saw the most overdoses in the state in 2012 with 161, saw six possible overdose deaths over the weekend, the Medical Examiner reported.