CLEVELAND — At the Convenient Mart in Cleveland’s Clark Fulton neighborhood, you can find just about anything your heart desires — or your tummy craves.
Fried foods, overflowing coffee, a t-shirt and cell phone shop, automotive and cleaning products — just about everything.
"A mini-Walmart," one worker said, laughing.
But most importantly, behind these counters and cash registers, you’ll find the people you don’t even know are on the frontlines, fighting back quietly against the drugs ravaging our streets.
“I was working behind the cash register and one of the customers came in and said the guy outside had fell forward - faceplanted,” said Rita Esparza, a longtime cashier.
Rita didn’t even think — she acted.
She ran outside, saw the guy was blue in the face, tried chest compressions that didn’t work.
“So I ran to the car and got the Narcan, shot him with two doses, which he woke up by the time the ambulance came,” Rita said.
Days later, Bryanna Floor did the same thing and saved the same man.
She had just come outside when she saw his mother struggling to wake him.
“I just didn’t want to watch that mom lose her baby,” Floor said.
Cuyahoga County is at the center of Ohio’s opioid epidemic.
The data from the medical examiner’s office is chilling.
At least 553 fatal overdoses as of October 2021 — all ages, all ethnicities, all income brackets. The ME's office believes we are on track to exceed 700 fatal overdoses this year.
“This isn’t just people who are addicted. The supply is so lethal, that anybody who takes a drug at this point not knowing it has fentanyl in it, can die,” said Beth Zietlow-Dejesus, director of external affairs with the ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County.
It’s why the ADAMHS Board and MetroHealth teamed up for a three-pronged approach — doing whatever they can to stop people from dying at these alarming rates.
It includes handing out free Narcan to users, free fentanyl test strips to check drugs and now, these “NaloxBoxes.”
Inside the boxes, you'll find ready-to-use Narcan put in public places like this convenient mart, detox centers, laundromats.
Nearly 50 have been installed in the last six months — with a goal of 100 by March.
“It’s like an AED. If someone were to have a heart attack you could grab the AED machine and save them — this is just for an overdose,” Zietlow-Dejesus said.
She also said it’s important to note, there is a good Samaritan clause under Ohio law that makes it so you can’t get in trouble if you help save a life, protecting you from prosecution.
Esparza and Bryanna grew up in this neighborhood, their customers are their regulars — and their friends.
And they’ll do whatever it takes to keep them safe.
“If they see somebody in need and they can do something about it, I would hope somebody would do it. Just shows our humanity,” Esparza said.
“You want to see them do better. Nobody wants to watch the people they love struggle,” Floor said.