New Mahoning County task force to follow drug trail in overdose deaths

Drug overdoses will now be treated as crimes

Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – In many ways, Monday’s scene where authorities found two people dead from suspected drug overdoses on Youngstown’s West Side stood out for its normalcy.

Police say the 51-year-old man and 62-year-old woman were found inside a house on South Osborne Avenue where a Christmas tree was still standing and the television was on.

Mahoning County Deputy Coroner Joseph Ohr said the sink was full of dirty dishes, with remnants of a French toast breakfast, and both victims were still in their pajamas. It’s a scene Ohr says he sees all too often.

“Now, I’m finding them literally with the needle still hanging out of their arm or out of the back of their hand,” Ohr said. “We in the community have a mindset that needle use is a back-alley, dirty, inner city, poor person’s disease. I am here to tell you no. This is a disease that is right next door to you. Whether you are in Poland, Canfield or Boardman, I get decedents from all of these areas, and these scenes look very normal, people living heir lives with heroin.”

The Mahoning Coroner’s Office is now part of a new multi-agency task force aimed at treating drug overdoses as crimes and following the trail to where the drug came from.

“This task force is going to be committed to focusing on the person that is at the lower level of giving this to another person and causing their death,” said Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene.

Greene said the group is essentially the same as the one created several months ago with help from the Ohio Attorney General to investigate human trafficking in the area, but the worsening drug problem became a greater priority.

Leaders with the task force insist this new group will not be just another drug task force. Greene said they will not be investigating the sale of narcotics but looking into such crimes as involuntary manslaughter caused by the dissemination of drugs on any level.

Greene said the FBI and the Ohio State Highway Patrol have already come on board. He now plans to meet with other local police chiefs this month to encourage them to join as well.

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