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'About to be record-breaking' —Overdose deaths on the rise in Cuyahoga County this year

Posted at 5:41 PM, May 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 17:50:54-04

CLEVELAND — There is a troubling trend emerging in Cuyahoga County. So far in 2021, there has been a steady uptick in overdose deaths.

“Our opioid numbers are about to be recording-breaking,” said Acting US Attorney Bridget Brennan.

The number of overdose deaths has increased since January.

“We are rather alarmed at the number of fatal overdoses we are seeing,” Brennan said.

The reason for the uptick in deaths, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration: fentanyl.

“Fentanyl is a huge problem for us right now,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Martin.

At St. Vincent Charity Medical Center there has been an uptick in the number of patients testing positive for fentanyl, according to Dr. Russell Spieth, Director of Outpatient Services Rosary Hall, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center. “What’s suspected is those folks believe they were purchasing cocaine, not fentanyl,” said Spieth.

Martin said agents are seeing fentanyl being mixed with heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

Eleven DEA divisions across the country were selected to take part in a Project Wave Breaker. It is an initiative focused on interdiction, enforcement, and community outreach. Cleveland is included in the 11 areas.

“Of those 11 divisions, they make up 85% of the seizures of synthetic opioids,” explained Martin.

Fred DiMarco lost his son to a heroin overdose in 2015. He has written two books about the opioid epidemic and his grief. He is on a mission to help other families dealing with addiction. “No words come close to the pain, grief and suffering of losing a child," said DiMarco.

He is concerned about the uptick in overdose deaths.

As law enforcement tries to stem the tide with Project Wave Breaker, DiMarco continues his commitment to helping other struggling families.

“If we can save one person who gets into recovery, that means recovery is possible,” explained Di Marco.

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