In a multi-pronged campaign, Cuyahoga County today launched a massive opioid awareness project, including as its centerpiece a broad ad campaign that will spotlight the dangers of painkiller addiction and, inherently, the heroin overdose public health crisis unfolding here at home.
The move happens to coincide with Gov. John Kasich's decision
to restrict painkiller prescription caps.
Know The Risks, signified in printed materials and on social media as "@KnowTheRx," brings together a broad spectrum of community leaders (one might even say "influencers") to underscore how immediate this problem is. As representatives from MetroHealth Medical Center
have pointed out, the network includes voices from Cuyahoga County's media, marketing, health care, government and sports corners.
Today, during a press conference announcing the project, Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson reiterated his office's stark claim that February 2017 brought the most heroin overdose deaths
of any single month in county history: 60.
As we and other news outlets in Cleveland have reported, the trends of this crisis are growing worse before any reversal or solution becomes clear. Cuyahoga County leaders hope that the present moment and the Know The Risks campaign can jump-start that turning point.
"Far too many of us are in need of treatment now," St. Vincent Charity Medical Center CEO David Perse said, adding that one in 10 county residents are currently seeking treatment. He said that St. Vincent will expand its partial hospitalization program and its transportation outreach to area sober living centers, helping an "additional 300 patients each year."
"I wish we weren't here. I wish we didn't have to do this. ... What this group has done in a matter of months is utterly remarkable," MetroHealth CEO Akram Boutros said today. "With virtually no budget, they'll be saving lives."
Indeed, with more than $500,000 in pro-bono assistance, the project will feature a full ad campaign that will be visible across the county. Keep an eye out. (One of the principle images of the campaign involves a person wrapped in a fetal position inside
a prescription medication bottle.)