By Blythe Alspaugh, Jon Huntsman and Mike Mann
When it comes to the heroin epidemic in Portage County, the local police and coroner’s office have a great burden upon them in their actions and response.
Sergeant Ryan Gaydosh at the Kent City Police Department is among the many officers that frequently hear calls regarding heroin overdoses.
“We’re probably talking at this point right around I would say like two a week, so we’re right around like eight to 10 a month,” Sgt. Gaydosh said.
When the police department receives calls about heroin overdoses, there are many ways to go about handling this.
Sgt. Gaydosh sat down to discuss how the police department responds to the heroin epidemic:
For the cases that end in death, autopsies are performed by the Portage County Coroner’s Office.
“Portage County ranks number 15 out of 88 counties as far as size in Ohio,” Wayne Enders, Coroner’s Office Administrator said. “We’re close to Warren, close to Akron, close to Cleveland, close to Youngstown, so a lot of stuff makes it down here.”
Many of the drug related accidental deaths of Portage County have been linked to drugs, 216 since 2011. Fifty-nine of those deaths have had heroin directly identified, while others feature what Enders calls commonly as a “cocktail”.
“When they buy an illicit drug, they don’t know what’s in that powder or in that cube,” Enders said. “They think they’re going to have heroin which they’re accustomed to using and they end up using fentanyl because you can’t tell the difference and it’s 50 times stronger and they die almost instantly.”
Fentanyl is commonly used to “cut” heroin, or mix into it to make it stronger, combating any tolerance an addict may have. It is more potent and a synthetic drug which has similar effects to heroin and morphine and works like opioid drugs.
Twenty-five drug related deaths since mid-2014 have been included to fentanyl in the autopsy results.
In 2014, the National Institute of Drug Abuse reported 10,574 heroin overdose deaths where the Ohio Department of Health reported 1,177 occurring in the state.
“It’s bad everywhere,” Enders said. “This year, we’ve had the most cases in the first four months than we’ve had in any other year.”
Enders added that the Coroner’s Office is six weeks ahead of the amount of cases than they had in 2015, a year in which they set a record for total cases.