Police and paramedics in Summit County were bombarded on Tuesday, responding to more than a dozen suspected heroin overdoses throughout the day.
Police said 16 people survived. However, a 44-year-old man died on Spruce Street. On Wednesday, the number of overdose cases grew after officials announced two new heroin cases. That brought the total number of overdoses to 19 in the past 24 hours.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, flanked by multiple city and public safety officials, held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to provide more details about the recent uptick in overdose cases. Horrigan expressed concern about the rash of overdoses, and said the city has "moved into a public health crisis."
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Akron Police Chief James Nice said investigators think heroin was laced with fentanyl in some of the 17 overdoses that were reported Tuesday. Narcan, which is typically used to reverse the affects of narcotics, was used in all 17 overdose cases.
Nice said the entire narcotics unit is joining officers who specialize in heroin cases in an effort to track down the dealers and any connections between the cases.
"We've put about four times as many people working day and night on this because if it is a bad bunch of dope, we want to get a search warrant on that location," Nice said.
Officials are not sure whether all 17 heroin overdose patients used the same batch. However, they did say it was more resistant to Narcan.
The mayor said city officials are "here to help" and he noted that there are programs in place to provide assistance, including opportunities for free counseling and treatment. Horrigan said Narcan kits are available and free needles can be obtained through the needle exchange.
Earlier Wednesday, Christine Curry, spokeswoman for the Akron mayor, told newsnet5.com there were nine police reports filed for 17 suspected heroin overdoses in the city Tuesday, including at locations on Copley Road, Mogadore Road, Chippewa Avenue, Romig Road and Nesmith Lake Boulevard.
On Tuesday, Akron fire responded to 10 heroin overdose incidents. The calls began around 1 p.m. and continued through 10 p.m. Multiple patients were found at several locations and rushed to area hospitals.
The 17 individuals—nine women and eight men—are between 19 and 58 years old, Curry said.
In one of those cases, police said, a mother in her 40's was using drugs with two of her daughters inside a Copley Road apartment when all three of them, along with a friend, overdosed. Officials said they survived.
"It becomes your spouse, your boyfriend, your lover, your mother, your brother, your sister, your God," said Leah, a former social worker from Bath Township. "Nothing else matters."
Leah has overdosed three times, but she is now in treatment at Oriana House and has been clean for five months. She said the drug Vivitrol has reduced her intense cravings.
Some of overdose patients are being treated at Akron General Hospital, with others at Summa Akron City Hospital.
Lt. Edwards said 55 people have died from heroin overdoses in Akron this year. Overdose deaths are up 15 percent from this time last year.
The Akron Fire Department has responded to 323 suspected heroin overdose this year.
Do you know someone who needs help treating their addiction? Visit www.admboard.org or call 330-996-7730.