WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Trumbull County commissioners have declared the heroin crisis a state of emergency, urging state and federal authorities to respond and do the same.
It’s the latest move by officials in a county hit hard by the opioid problem, but they’re not the only ones who want more help. The families impacted by this crisis are making their own plea, too.
“We’re in a war,” said Brenda Starr, who lost her son, Sean Hall, to his 14-year battle with heroin addiction in January of 2016.
She visits him at the cemetery now.
“I love my son. I loved him whether he was in recovery or not.”
Starr is one of the over 100 Trumbull County families who lost a loved one to addiction in 2016. Just last month, there were 189 total overdoses, 26 of which resulted in deaths.
Mental health officials worry if the trend continues this year, the number of deadly overdoses will make for another record-breaking year.
“So far this year, we’ve had, unofficially, 38 actual deaths from drug overdoses,” said April Caraway, with the county’s Mental Health and Recovery Board. “We know at that rate, we’re gonna well surpass the 106 we had in 2016.”
That’s why on Wednesday morning, commissioners declared a state of emergency for the county.
“This isn’t a partisan issue, this isn’t a policy issue. This is a life and death issue,” Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said.
They’re calling on state and federal authorities to respond by helping them put money toward fighting the drug problem.
“We’re in ground zero here, you know, we’re in the trenches. It’s imperative that we get these funds and we try to tackle this problem from a prevention standpoint, from an education standpoint, and from an enforcement standpoint,” Cantalamessa said.
Commissioners even asked Governor John Kasich to release money from the Rainy Day Fund to help fight this war — something Starr hopes he does.
“I can’t think of a rainier day and if there’s ever been one, I’d like to be shown it. Our kids are dying. It’s not just my kids, it’s not just other people’s kids, it’s our neighbors’ kids,” she said.
Kasich’s office released the following statement, in part, after hearing news of Trumbull County commissioners declaring a state of emergency:
Ohio is investing significant resources in drug treatment, prevention, and law enforcement…As way of background, there is no specific authority under Ohio’s law to declare a “public health” emergency — the legislature hasn’t granted any governor this particular authority. I’ve yet to see anyone point to a law and prove us wrong on the fact that we don’t have this authority. However, even if the governor were able to issue a “public health” alert/notice/advisory, there isn’t a faucet of money that will automatically turn on and flow. At the end of the day, regardless the state of the issue, the governor is already treating this drug epidemic with a sense of emergency.”
Kasich’s office shared statistics and information outlining the $1 billion in annual spending and how the governor has handled the heroin crisis. It also included information about emergency declarations.