August 27, 2014

Elyria
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Forum tackles local heroin crisis

Loren Genson
The Chronicle-Telegram

Monica Robins, left, led a panel discussion about the prevalence of the heroin epidemic within the United States with Joseph Pinjuh, Chief, OCDETF Unit, U.S. Attorney's Office, NDOH; Thomas Gilson MD, Medical Examiner, Cuyahoga County; and Gregory Collins MD, Cleveland Clinic; at the 2013 Heroin Summit Thursday. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

Monica Robins, left, led a panel discussion about the prevalence of the heroin epidemic within the United States with Joseph Pinjuh, Chief, OCDETF Unit, U.S. Attorney’s Office, NDOH; Thomas Gilson MD, Medical Examiner, Cuyahoga County; and Gregory Collins MD, Cleveland Clinic; at the 2013 Heroin Summit Thursday. KRISTIN BAUER/CHRONICLE

CLEVELAND — More than 600 people from throughout Northeast Ohio gathered Thursday to confront the heroin problem that has swept through the region — claiming lives, destroying families and devastating communities along the way.

The summit, staged by the Cleveland Clinic and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, featured law enforcement, judges, social workers, medical personnel and those whose families have dealt with a loved one’s addiction.

Together, they discussed the impact of the drug on the area’s communities, and possible ways of eradicating it.

Dr. Delos Cosgrove, president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, said the hospital gets about 25 calls each day for help with opiate addiction. The hospital system admits four to five new patients each day asking for treatment the addiction. Those patients come from all walks of life and every community, and that’s one of the reasons Cosgrove said the Clinic wanted to host a summit on the topic.

“Age is not a determinate, social status is not a determinate and race is not a determinate, frankly it is everywhere across our community,” he said.

Nowhere was that more evident than the string of overdoses first responders encountered in Lorain County earlier this month.

Between Nov. 8 and 11, officials in Lorain County handled 21 overdoses, two of which resulted in death, said Lorain County Coroner Stephen Evans. Law enforcement officers have arrested the suspected supplier of the heroin, which was found to be laced with fentanyl, an extremely powerful painkiller.

But Evans said the real success in Lorain County has been the implementation of a pilot program that allows police officers to carry and dispense Narcan, which helps reverse overdose effects in victims. Some of those who survived the overdoses the weekend of Nov. 8 were saved by police officers who arrived at the scene before paramedics.

“We’ve only been doing this program for one month and in the one month, we’ve already saved 12 lives,” Evans said.

Contact Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or at lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

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