More Steps Put in Place to Battle Heroin Epidemic

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CLEVELAND — The Cuyahoga County Opiate Task Force, along with several officials, announced on Monday new protocols to battle the heroin epidemic.

Since September, 2012, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald’s Cuyahoga County Heroin Initiative has taken steps to stop the abuse, including putting in place a prescription drug drop box and making naloxone available to reverse the effects of an overdose.

On Monday, Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson released findings that 38-40 heroin overdoses occurred during the first quarter of 2014; officials said that marks the lowest death rate for the first quarter since 2011.

To build on that, officials announced at the press conference that they will work with local law enforcement to put in place a “broad-based policy approach with innovative protocols to fight heroin abuse.”

According to officials, those include enhancements to “death specification” sentencing in federal cases and tougher charges from the county prosecutor’s office if a fatal heroin overdose happens.

Also announced: 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.

At the press conference, FitzGerald said, “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. 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.”

Click here for FOX 8’s ‘Heroin Hits Home’ series.