YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Mahoning County Deputy Coroner Dr. Joseph Ohr said he’s seen at least 10 fatal overdoses in less than three weeks, not counting the cases still being investigated from late December.
The number is larger than in the recent past. At this same time last year, one death was recorded.
Ohr, who is also the county’s forensic pathologist, says most overdoses in the past involved pills. Now, most are heroin and fentanyl-related.
It’s a drug combination that Ohr calls “absolutely lethal.” Earlier this week, a man was found dead on Youngstown’s east side, still clutching a syringe in his hand. Earlier this month, a couple was found inside their home on the west side with drug paraphernalia close to their bodies.
Last year, more than 175 people died from fatal overdoses in Mahoning and Trumbull counties. While the increase puts a strain on the coroner’s staff, time and budget, the situation is only getting worse.
“It’s a community problem. It is absolutely a public health epidemic, and it needs to be treated just like influenza or cancer” Ohr said.
The Mahoning County Sheriff has put together a heroin overdose task force to help local police investigate these types of cases. Investigators are looking to track down dealers, and not just the main supplier. They are looking at the whole supply chain.
“This is a crime where someone has given somebody something that has caused their death,” said Major Jeff Allen.
In order to truly tackle the heroin epidemic, Ohr believes families and neighbors need to get involved and informed.
“We have to be going to the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings. We have to be going to the church meetings, the lectures,” Ohr said.
For now, though, the body count continues to climb.