Task Force Announces Next Steps in Fighting Heroin Epidemic

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Media contacts:   
Rich Luchette, (216) 797-0931
Christopher Harris, (216) 443-7157

Preliminary first quarter report finds lowest fatality level since 2011

CLEVELAND – Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald joined leading members of the Cuyahoga County Opiate Task Force, including U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach and Cleveland Chief of Police Calvin Williams, to announce new protocols to curtail the epidemic of heroin abuse and release preliminary numbers for the first quarter of 2014 that indicate possible success in this effort.

“It’s critical that every level of government work together so we can reverse the trend of heroin abuse and improve health and public safety in local communities,” said FitzGerald. “We can’t afford to be complacent – there’s a lot of work left to be done – but I am very confident in the team we’ve assembled here in Cuyahoga County and the progress that we’ve made in such a short amount of time.”

Since September 2012, FitzGerald’s Cuyahoga County Heroin Initiative has coordinated countywide efforts to raise awareness regarding the toll of this epidemic through medical and law enforcement partnerships. FitzGerald’s administration has taken several actions to curb this trend, including implementing a prescription drug drop box and making naloxone available to reverse the effects of an overdose.

During Monday’s press conference, Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson released preliminary findings that 38-40 heroin overdoses occurred during the first quarter of 2014. This marks the lowest fatality rate for the first quarter since 2011.

In an effort to build on these preliminary signs of success, Cuyahoga County officials and local stakeholders will work with local law enforcement officials to implement a broad-based policy approach with innovative protocols to fight heroin abuse. These include enhancements to “death specification” sentencing in federal cases and tougher charges from the county prosecutor’s office in the event of a fatal heroin overdose.

In addition, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Regional Forensic Science Laboratory will be available to provide assistance collecting and analyzing evidence from a crime scene, such as packets, syringes, and drug residue, in order to ensure suspected heroin dealers are brought to justice.

Preliminary testing report on heroin-related deaths** for 2014(through April 16, 2014)

  • 25 ruled cases in Cuyahoga County were confirmed heroin-related overdoses.
  • 2 ruled cases in Cuyahoga County were possible heroin-related overdoses.
  • 13 un-ruled cases in Cuyahoga County were tested as possible heroin-related overdoses.
  • 38-40 total possible heroin-related deaths in Q1 2014.
  • Q1 2014 heroin-related deaths are down 15-19% from Q1 2013 heroin-related deaths.
  • Q1 2014 heroin-related deaths are down 2-7% from Q1 2012 heroin-related deaths.

Preliminary First Quarter Heroin-Related Deaths













Any questions regarding the preliminary first quarter statistical numbers regarding medical examiner-ruled heroin-related deaths to date for 2014 shall be referred directly to Thomas P. Gilson, M.D., Medical Examiner of Cuyahoga County. Heroin data and resource links are posted at: http://medicalexaminer.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/CC-HeroinInitiative.aspx with regular updates.

Annual statistical data reports from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office are available on-line at: http://medicalexaminer.cuyahogacounty.us/.

Members of the media who wish additional medical examiner’s statistical reports, must make such requests pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 313.10 to:

Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office, 11001 Cedar Ave., Cleveland, OH 44106 or via email: cbharris@cuyahogacounty.us