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Updated: 9:04 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 | Posted: 3:44 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014

Ohio AG launches heroin unit to fight epidemic

By Breaking News Staff

COLUMBUS —

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Wednesday announced the creation of an investigative unit of his office to specifically combat a statewide heroin epidemic that took the lives of 606 Ohioans in 2012.

"Unfortunately, there are people out there who don't believe heroin is really in their communities. They don't want to believe that this can be them -- that this can be their child who is addicted or who is going to die from a heroin overdose," DeWine said at a press conference announcing the unit. "The numbers tell a different story."

The Attorney General's Heroin Unit will include investigators, lawyers, and drug abuse awareness specialists to help local leaders and law enforcement fight the heroin problem in their community.

"New data our office has gathered suggests 11 people die in Ohio every week from a heroin overdose," DeWine said. The data from 47 county coroners across the state also revealed a 107-percent increase in heroin deaths from 2011 to 2012.

The results are as follows:

  • 2010: 292 heroin overdose deaths
  • 2011: 395 heroin overdose deaths
  • 2012: 606 heroin overdose deaths

The reporting counties with the largest number of heroin overdoses in 2012 include:

  1. Cuyahoga County: 161
  2. Montgomery County: 93
  3. Franklin County: 73
  4. Hamilton County: 54

Montgomery County Coroner Kent Harshbarger, who is also the Chief Forensic Officer for the Ohio State Coroners Association, attended the announcement in Columbus.

"I'm glad there is an increased effort to try to fight this increasing problem plaguing our state and killing too many Ohioans," Harshbarger said.

DeWine announced in November that he planned to allocate $1 million for the unit.

The Dayton Daily News, WHIO-TV and News Talk Radio WHIO launched an in-depth project in October to raise awareness of the heroin and prescription pain pill epidemic in Montgomery County and statewide.

At that time, The Montgomery County Opiate Task Force announced several local initiatives and Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer held a town hall meeting to launch a coalition of community leaders to fight the harmful effects of illegal prescription drugs, opiates and heroin.

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