Lawmaker: Valley’s heroin problem ‘catastrophic,’ resources needed

Congressman Tim Ryan said he wants President Trump to understand how many people are dying of opioid overdoses

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Ending the opioid and prescription drug epidemic is something Valley Congressman Tim Ryan says is a top priority for him.

He is calling on President Donald Trump to declare the opioid addiction crisis a Public Health Emergency. His latest call to action came in the form of an open letter to the president.

Just the first sentence is eye-opening — “We lose 144 people every day to drug overdoses in the United States. Drug overdose deaths are now the number one cause of accidental death in our nation,” Ryan writes.

Read Congressman Ryan’s complete letter to President Trump

That’s just the beginning of what Ryan said he wants Trump to understand.

Further in the letter, Ryan says, “We can no longer turn a blind eye to the catastrophic nature of this ongoing crisis.” Strong words as the opioid epidemic continues to grip not only the nation but northeast Ohio.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have all the resources to help all the people that need the help that they need to get clean and we also need a national strategy with regard to awareness, and prevention, and making sure that kids understand how dangerous this is,” Ryan said.

In his letter, the Congressman said a declaration would make available federal funds to communities struggling with the ongoing problem of addiction.

On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded the state $26 million to fight the opioid epidemic.

“Declaring it a national emergency…would allow and free up more resources to be put to both prevention and dealing with people who want to get clean. We need the help,” Ryan said.

In Ohio alone, deadly drug overdoses now pass up car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in the state. In Trumbull County, there were 189 overdoses just in the month of March — 26 of them fatal.

To close out his strongly written letter, Ryan asks the president to “do the right thing and declare the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, and save lives.”

“I want him to know that there are people asking him to do this. We watched him campaign here. He talked about drugs coming over the border — it’s a real issue, it’s an issue that’s killing many, many people in our country and we’ve got to raise our game up to address that issue.”

WKBN 27 First News will go in-depth Monday night to see how the local heroin epidemic is impacting police and the courts, and what laws need to be changed. We’ll talk to members of the law enforcement community, a local judge, hear from a recovering addict who’s gone through the system, and talk with Congressman Ryan about how Washington can help in the fight.

The 27 Investigates special airs Monday at 7 p.m. on WKBN.

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