Spike in heroin overdoses so far in 2017

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Local leaders came together February 27, to talk about another spike in drug deaths, including an upswing just in the past weekend that included nine suspected fatal overdoses.

Nine people died over the weekend of suspected heroin overdoses in Hamilton County and the total number of deaths from overdoses has nearly doubled from the same time last year, the coroner said Monday. Sunday night, two parents were found dead in their home in Madisonville with their three children.

"The opiate crisis is leaving children as really the unheard victims," said Hamilton Co. Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco.

A map provided by the Hamilton Co. Health Dept. shows hot spots for heroin overdoses. Price Hill and Delhi Twp. lead in the county in the number of deaths followed by Norwood and other communities.

"At this time last year, we had 49 overdose deaths, suspected at this point. This year to date, we have 94 suspected overdose deaths," Dr. Sammarco said.

Dr. Sammarco said her lab is seeing more variations of heroin mixed with fentanyl and fentanyl mixed with cocaine. Hamilton County's health commissioner said they need to get addicts into treatment because they're stuck in a vicious cycle.

"People are going to the emergency department, they're getting stabilized, some are being referred into services, some are not, they're being put back out on the street only to unfortunately deal with this monster of opiate addiction, to overdose again," health commissioner Tim Ingram said.

The Heroin Task Force and the DEA have been working to track down dealers but it's not an easy job.

"Unfortunately, there's not one or two gangs that are controlling the market," said Tim Reagan, resident Agent in Charge of the Cincinnati office of the DEA. "There's just a ton of people out there selling so it really makes it difficult on us to focus on one group or individual."

As the number of overdose deaths spikes, the heroin coalition says it has a message for drug users.

"Ever played roulette? Because we don't know what you're going to get and we have seen a gamut of mixtures," Dr. Sammarco said.

The Addiction Services Council answers the phone 24 hours a day to provide help to addicts who want treatment. The number in Ohio is 513.281.7880. The number in Northern Kentucky is 859.415.9280. They can also get information and help on the website.

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