More People Have Fatally Overdosed in Cuyahoga County So Far This Year Than in All of 2015

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Cuyahoga County leaders are seeking federal help after 2016's opiate overdose toll ticked past 2015's total. As of today, at least 197 people have fatally overdosed on heroin, fentanyl or a combination of the two. In all of 2015, 194 fatally overdosed.

In May 2016 alone, 45 people overdosed and died; 19 lived in Cleveland and 26 lived in the suburbs.

"While our ongoing efforts to collaborate and cover all relevant aspects of our opioid problem have been worthy, it’s obvious that new and more aggressive strategies are needed," Cuyahoga County Executive Budish said in a public statement today. "It’s critical that we continue to address the heroin and fentanyl crisis we are facing in our community, which is why I have reached out to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requesting additional funding and support to address this growing – and evolving - problem." 

The county is requesting assistance from the U.S. Department of Health, including "changes to Medicaid reimbursement regulations which currently restrict facilities to 16 beds and require pain management satisfaction surveys as part of doctor evaluations, impacting reimbursement for treatment and promotion of over-prescribing opiate/opioid pain medication."

Dr. Joan Papp, medical director of Project DAWN, recently authored an article about how pain management intersects with the country's rapidly growing opiate addiction epidemic. 

"More resources, including increased funding and personnel are still needed and are a part of the county’s request," the county medical examiner's office states.

Scene's feature story this week takes a close look at one man's attempts to recover from a seven-year heroin addiction. 

During the reporting process for that story, we spoke with Aaron Marks, a member of the the Heroin and Opioid Task Force led by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Ohio. He said: "I think we're still at a point where this is going to continue to get worse before it gets better. I don't want to sound defeated, but we've been working on it for three years and you see these numbers and it's tough. I don't think people realize how much is going on. You see the numbers and it's kind of shocking, but once you take a step back and look at the scope of the problem, this is the public health crisis of the next generation."

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