CLEVELAND — As the death toll continues to climb, those on the frontline of the opioid crisis are mobilizing to strengthen efforts to turn the tide.
The latest warning from the Cuyahoga County Coroner after six overdose deaths in just 24 hours comes on the heels of a new partnership designed to better tackle the problem.
Case Western Reserve University is intensifying training efforts for students in its nursing and social work programs in light of the epidemic in Northeast Ohio.
"We know this is a critical issue in our community. Resources are an issue for treatment," said Amy Korsch-Williams, Case Western Reserve University.
A $1.1 million federal grant is helping fund a new program that will strengthen the safety net for those struggling with addiction.
"We have a real opportunity here," said Korsch-Williams.
Over the next three years, students from CWRU will partner with professionals at five community organizations, all of them on the front line of substance abuse.
Korsch-Williams said the funding will be “to really effectively treat opioid use and substance use disorders in this community."
New Directions in Beachwood is one of the treatment centers that will be training the future nurses and social workers.
"Knowing what clients will best respond to is going to make a big difference," said Mike Matoney, New Directions CEO.
Matoney said that focused treatment will prevent clients from relapsing.
"If they can get connected right away to the right kind of help it's been shown over and over again, they're more than likely not to see them rotate back through again," said Matoney.
The goal: create a long-term workforce pipeline of practitioners that will stay in Northeast Ohio.
"The more students that we're able to train in this area and effectively train the better the outcomes will be. Over time, I'm hoping that as we put out more qualified practitioners, inter-disciplinary practitioners, to really holistically treat these issues with children, with families and adults it will change the fabric of our community and the outcomes in the long run," said Korsch-Williams.
Last year, the overdose death rate in Cuyahoga County was almost three times the national average - it's one of the catalysts for CWRU to take its training to the next level.
All five organizations serve a cross-section of our community; from different ethnicities to age groups.
That will give students an in-depth look at how addiction impacts everyone and what treatment options work best.