So what's next? What's being done in Akron and surrounding areas to help those struggling with a heroin addiction?

Tuesday, 04 April 2017 07:54

Pharmacy Board Approves New Opioid Limits

It didn't take Ohio's Board of Pharmacy to implement Governor Kasich's desire to cut down on opioid prescriptions. New rules were approved a week after Kasich announced efforts by the regulatory boards overseeing doctors, nurses, dentists and pharmacists to use "commonsense" limits on using opioids to treat acute pain. Supporters hope to cut the number of doses in Ohio by more than 100 million annually.

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(Ohio Pharmacy Board) The State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy announced the approval of rules to help implement proposed limits on opiate prescriptions for acute pain. Announced by Governor Kasich and leaders of Ohio's healthcare regulatory boards last Thursday, the rules will support efforts by the Medical, Nursing and Dental Boards to place commonsense limits on the use of opiates for the treatment of acute pain.

"The Board is proud to play its role in helping to reduce opiate prescribing in Ohio" said Steven Schierholt, Executive Director of the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy. "It is estimated that the state could see an annual reduction of 109 million opiate doses once the new limits are in effect."

The rules adopted by the Board will require prescribers to include a diagnosis or procedure code on every controlled substance prescription. This information will then be entered into Ohio's prescription monitoring program, known as the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS), by dispensing pharmacies to monitor compliance with the limits.

The rules will follow the Board's standard rule adoption process, including input from stakeholders and the public.

Published in Local

A bill passed by the Ohio Senate this week would lead to harsher sentences for fentanyl traffickers.

Senate Bill 1, sponsored by State Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Hudson), lowers the amount of fentanyl for which someone can be charged with felony trafficking. Under current law, LaRose says a trafficker has to have enough heroin to kill 10,000 people before they can be charged with a felony. Fentanyl is frequently being mixed with heroin, creating a much more deadly concoction than straight heroin. The bill now moves to the General Assembly.

LaRose joined Jasen to talk about the bill and his proposal for congressional redistricting reform.

Published in Jasen Sokol
Saturday, 10 September 2016 11:27

OD's Hit 24 In Akron Friday Night

The Heroin Epidemic front and center in Akron again; firefighters say they responded to an EMS call last night on Concord Avenue that revealed three people suffering from an overdose, with a three year old child missing. The child was found wandering a street away but is safe; all three were taken to local hospitals.

Even then -- the story wasn't done. Paramedics were sent back to the same house later to treat a fourth victim.

Additionally, another 20 overdoses were reported by NewsChannel 5. One overdose also blamed for a car crash near Macy's at Chapel Hill. The vehicle didn't hit any buildings reports NewsChannel 5 but hit a guard rail and then burst into flames. He was burned but expected to survive. Two other OD victims were found by police on public walkways, one on a South Canton Road sidewalk and another in a parking lot outside a restaurant on Brittain Road.

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(AFD) Akron Fire responded to a multiple overdose. Initially 3 adults treated and transported. A Report that a 3 yo was on scene and wondered off during the overdoses.

A search was performed of the general neighbor hood area. APD located the child in the backyard of an address a street over. An adult saw the child wandering around and started watching the child with her own children until APD arrived.

Shortly after the Med units and fire companies cleared the scene, a fourth  patient showed up at the same address overdosed. A fourth Med unit was dispatched and treated/transported the patient.

Published in Local
Thursday, 01 September 2016 17:32

AUDIO: Jasen Sokol Show Heroin Forum

The Jasen Sokol Show traveled to Summit County Public Health Wednesday for a forum on the heroin and opioid addiction problem in Greater Akron. The discussion ranged from treatment and recovery options to the new drug disposal pouches available at Acme Fresh Market locations to the stories of family members who lost loved ones to heroin. If you missed any of the interviews, hear them in the player below.

Published in Jasen Sokol
Friday, 26 August 2016 16:20

Day Five: State Gets Narcan Rebates

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says the state has already saved more than $200-thousand dollars thanks to a rebate deal with the drug company that makes the medication used to help reverse overdoses before they become fatal.

Local EMS, fire and police agencies get a rebate on Naloxone syringes; the drug is often refered to as "Narcan" and so far 82 agencies in the state have taken advantage of the program, DeWine says.

Akron police Friday began carrying doses of the life-saving medication in police cruisers for those times when police respond first to the scene, ahead of paramedics. Local hospitals are helping with the supply.

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(Ohio Attorney General) Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine sent a letter to members of law enforcement today reminding them that rebates are available for law enforcement agencies that carry naloxone. When given to a person overdosing on opioids such as heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, or a prescription opioid, naloxone can limit or stop the overdose by reversing the effects of the opioid on the brain.

In March, Attorney General DeWine announced that he renewed an agreement with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to allow law enforcement, fire departments, emergency medical services, and others to receive a $6 rebate for each Amphastar naloxone syringe purchased until March 2017.

During the first year of the rebate agreement, 82 Ohio agencies were reimbursed a total of more than $209,000 to offset the cost of the life-saving drug. "Heroin, fentanyl, and now carfentanil continue to take and risk the lives of many Ohioans every single day," Attorney General DeWine said in his letter. "For those of you who are not yet carrying naloxone, I strongly encourage you to do so. Naloxone is another tool to help ensure the safety of your community members."

According to a report released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Health, drug overdose deaths in Ohio increased from 2,531 in 2014 to 3,050 in 2015, including 1,155 fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths. Attorney General DeWine recently warned law enforcement about the risks faced by officers who field test potent opioids like fentanyl. Alerts sent out by the Attorney General's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) in June and July warned that law enforcement should collect drug evidence with caution. Because drug absorption can occur through mucus membranes or broken skin, BCI recommended that any suspected heroin or fentanyl not be field tested as it could contain potent synthetic opioids such as carfentanil.

"These drugs are so dangerous to anyone who encounters them that we've recently increased safety precautions for BCI forensic scientists who test these drugs in our state crime labs, and we also have naloxone on hand in case the drugs are accidentally ingested," said Attorney General DeWine. 

Published in Local
Friday, 26 August 2016 10:27

Day Five: Getting Heroin Off The Streets

When it comes to the heroin epidemic, there are a number of different ways treatment organizations, law enforcement and city leaders are working to tackle the issue. The court system is no different.

"The only way to get these very dangerous and deadly drugs off the streets is to lock up the supplier," said Margaret Scott, deputy chief of the criminal division at the Summit County Prosecutor's Office.

So far this year, 11 people have been charged with manslaughter in connection with heroin overdose deaths in the area.

"These drug dealers, they know exactly what they're doing," said Scott. "They are selling these drugs to people who they know physically have an addiction, and have to have it and feel they have to have it, they're taking their money and they know that it's likely that they will die."

READ Akron Police Chief Adds New Heroin Unit

"Within the past three years, we started to see an increase in actually charging the trafficker with a homicide, and hopefully getting them locked up for a long enough time to keep the product off the streets."

Scott said there are also court programs in place to help connect those battling an addiction with local treatment centers.

Published in Local

It is day five of the Rubber City Radio Group’s spotlight on the heroin epidemic, and today, we look to what we as a community can do next. Summit County sheriff Steve Barry joined the Ray Horner Morning Show to inform what his office is doing to stop the heroin outbreak. Sheriff Barry says the county is putting teams together to gather as much information as possible to educate the public about opiates and the subsequent addiction. Why is it so bad in Akron? He believes our location nationally, as well as a lower economic state, are large factors. What can the people do? Barry urges the public to read the signs and call their local law enforcement agency if they come across suspicious activity. By doing so, officers can arrest the local traffickers, then working their way up to the suppliers.

Published in WAKR RAY HORNER

As our week-long series on the heroin epidemic comes to an end, it's just the beginning for those who have high hopes to make a difference in the community.

Take for example Travis and Shelly Bornstein who lost their son two years ago. They want to open a treatment center on the same vacant lot in Akron where their son, Tyler, died from a heroin overdose.

"The person [Tyler] was with took him to a vacant lot at the corner of Arlington and Alfred and left him there to die," said Travis. "That was on Sept. 28 of 2014. Ever since then, our family has been trying to work to try to bring positive change to the heroin/opiate epidemic."

Shelly Bornstein and her sister, Laura Broyles, officially launched the non-profit program, Breaking Barriers - Hope is Alive, to raise awareness and money to build a new treatment center in the city.

"It's not going to be an easy solve," said Travis. "We cannot get into the blame game. We all have to come together as a community to work together to solve this."

Travis, the current president of Teamsters Local 24 in Akron, attended the union's international convention in Las Vegas in June with hopes of raising awareness about the new non-profit organization. It didn't take long for the donation pledges to roll in -- totaling around $1.4 million.

While it may seem like a lot of money, Travis say much more is needed to build a fully operational facility in the city.

"We can probably build a building, but we can't operate, fund and staff a state-of-the-art facility like we would like to have with $1.4 million."

Breaking Barriers continues to hold fundraisers and has launched an online crowdfunding page to raise money to carry out the goal of building a new treatment center in Akron, but Travis says it's also about building partnerships with city leaders and community members.

"A big part of our hope. A big part of our mission is to offer hope. We need to offer hope to our community."


Published in Local

Kim DeMassimo knows what it's like to be the family member of an addict. Her cocaine-addicted husband left her with next to nothing and a bank account with a negative balance. Now, she's trying to help other people dealing with the same struggle.

DeMassimo is involved with SOLACE Summit County, a group geared toward the families of addicts that meets in an informal setting to heal and learn. She says many family members don't know what to do when a member of their family is addicted. 

Among the long-term goals for DeMassimo is the creation of a one-stop hotline that could provide a wide range of information to the families of addicts. She formed a nonprofit, Spiritual Saturation, with the goal of becoming a clearinghouse for resources from help paying bills to treatment options to purchasing simples 

SOLACE meets twice a month on Saturdays at The Grand Exchange, 933 W. Exchange St., Akron. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

Published in Jasen Sokol
Thursday, 25 August 2016 11:42

Day Four: ODH Show Hike In Overdoses

The Ohio Department of Health has released their Unintentional Drug Overdose report for 2015, revealing a sharp increase in the number of fenatanyl-related deaths since 2013.

We are certainly no stranger to fentanyl-related overdoses, as locally in Summit County the number of overdoses reported to local emergency rooms have skyrocketed this year, most notably in June and July. 

The Department of Health report indicates the number of fenatanyl-related deaths in the state rose more than doubled between 2014 and 2015. Meanwhile, overall drug overdose deaths rose from 2531 in 2014 to 3040 last year.

See the full report below: 

(Columbus, OH) - The number of unintentional drug overdose deaths in Ohio increased again in 2015, driven by a sharp rise in fentanyl-related deaths, according to a new report released by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). The number of fentanyl-related deaths in Ohio has increased from 84 in 2013, to 503 in 2014 and rose to 1,155 in 2015. Overall, drug overdose deaths in Ohio increased from 2,531 in 2014 to 3,050 in 2015. 

The report also dramatically demonstrates the rapidly changing nature of the battle against drug abuse.  As the state has worked with physicians to curb prescription opiate abuse, the number of prescription opiate overdose deaths have begun to level off.

“Ohio was one of the first states to see the rise of fentanyl over the past couple of years, as the opiate epidemic continues to evolve to more powerful drugs,” said Dr. Mark Hurst, medical director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “We knew when we started this battle five years ago that progress wouldn’t be easy, but we are well prepared to stay on the leading edge of fighting this epidemic thanks to the multi-faceted strategies we have put into place.”

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic narcotic that is estimated to be 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin, and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The vast majority of fentanyl reports by law enforcement in drug seizures result from illegally produced and trafficked fentanyl, not diverted prescription fentanyl.

Last fall, Ohio requested assistance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help better understand the increase in fentanyl-related deaths. CDC issued a report that provided insight into fentanyl-related overdose deaths in Ohio, and also noted that “the state has launched a comprehensive response” to address the issue.

The use of naloxone, the opiate reversal drug, has been vital to saving lives and that is why Ohio has increased funding to purchase naloxone for first responders through local health departments. In 2015, Ohio EMS personnel administered 19,782 doses of naloxone – 7,207 more doses than in 2013. More than one dose of naloxone may have been administered to a single patient to reverse the opiate overdose.

A targeted campaign to raise awareness about the signs of a drug overdose was launched in May to urge family members and friends of people who use drugs to obtain naloxone to administer during an overdose while waiting on first-responders to arrive. The campaign focuses on 15 Ohio counties that accounted for 80 percent of the state’s fentanyl-related overdose deaths in 2014. 

“In the midst of this growing opiate epidemic, we are seeing positive indications that our aggressive efforts are working to reduce opioid prescription pain medications available for abuse,” said ODH Medical Director Dr. Mary DiOrio “There were 81 million fewer opioid doses dispensed to Ohio patients since the state took initiatives to curb opiates, and the number of people who try to get controlled substances from multiple doctors has dramatically decreased. Also, the percentage of prescription opioid-related deaths compared to all unintentional overdose deaths declined in Ohio for the fourth straight year.”

DiOrio attributes the decline in the number of opiates dispensed to Ohio patients with efforts to reduce the prescription pill supply, increased law enforcement efforts, empowering prescribers and pharmacists to use Ohio’s prescription drug monitoring system, the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System, and working with medical professionals to establish opioid prescribing guidelines for healthcare professionals who treat chronic pain and acute pain.

“The state has been very aggressive in implementing new strategies to strengthen Ohio’s fight against opiates, but we are reminded today of the difficult road ahead as the epidemic evolves at a rapid pace,” said Andrea Boxill, the coordinator of the Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team and deputy director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “In the face of the continued rise in drug overdoses, we believe that Ohio has one of the most comprehensive approaches in the nation to combatting opiate abuse and drug overdoses, and we will continue to evolve our efforts to address the changes that we are seeing in the drug market.”

A summary of the 2015 Ohio Drug Overdose Report is available here, and the full report is available here. A list of new strategies to combat the opiate epidemic, including fentanyl, is available here. A detailed list of Ohio’s past and ongoing efforts tackling the supply of drugs, preventing drug abuse before it starts, treating those who fall prey to drug addiction, and reversing drug overdoses with naloxone is available here.

Published in Local

It is day four of the Rubber City Radio Group’s platform on the heroin epidemic in the area. The spotlight today is on the treatment of opiate addiction and the various in the area who are there to assist. Summa Health System’s Dr. Alan Shein, MD of Addiction Medicine Services, joined the Ray Horner Morning Show to discuss the treatment program an addict will undergo. First off, Dr. Shein touched on how and why a person would make the jump from prescription drugs that include opiates to heroin, which would not only quell the pain, but to illicit a euphoria. The program at Summa is designed to help the victims get off heroin dependency and assist with the withdrawal symptoms. Though the detoxification process is an uncomfortable one, the medical staff will prescribe medication to the patients, which will help flush the opiates out of the body. The timeline is about four to five days, then the patient will transition to the next level of care.

Published in WAKR RAY HORNER

In our continuing coverage of the heroin crisis in Summit County, we showcase some of the facilities in the area dedicated to helping those find the path to recovery. The Interval Brotherhood Home, or IBH, is a drug and alcohol recovery center located on S. Main Street near the Portage Lakes. The recovery center has been in operation since 1970, and Joe Rifici, an associate clinical director, joined the Ray Horner Morning Show to discuss what IBH does. Rifici spoke in depth about the recovery program, which helps patients find their spiritual side. Since 2009, when he joined IBH, Rifici says victims of heroin abuse has increased exponentially, mainly in the last year. He notices patients come from every background come through the doors, no matter the race or economic upbringing.

Published in WAKR RAY HORNER
Friday, 26 August 2016 07:00

Day Five: AUDIO APD To Carry Narcan

There are steps being taken to address some of the community concerns surrounding the heroin epidemic in Akron. The Akron Police Department has started training officers on using Narcan to help save the lives of those who may have overdosed.

"We want to do everything we can to save lives," said Akron Police Chief James Nice. "So the next step is to put in into the police cruisers. In case the cruiser does get there before EMS, we're given every opportunity to save a life."

Nice said it's not often that police officers arrive on scene of an overdose before EMS, but he still believes it's important to have officers equipped with the drug to offer help.

At this point, Nice said carrying Narcan does not come with a cost for the department. The first shipment of the supply will come from the hospitals and the Summit County Health Department. Nice said grants are expected to help pay for additional supplies when needed.

Nice expects Narcan to be in every police cruiser beginning this Friday.


Published in Local

Help for those struggling with a heroin addiction can come from a number of different places -- including right inside jails. Dr. Debra Walsh with Summit Psychological Associates works directly with the Summit County Jail offering Vivitrol to inmates battling a heroin addiction. The drug works to reduce cravings and block the high.

According to Walsh, the Vivitrol program is not just about reducing a person's craving for the drug -- but also about connecting the person with an outpatient treatment when they are released from jail.

"Right when they get the injection, they are hooked, specifically, with our outpatient program so that they can leave the jail and start right up with our mental health (services), our substance treatment, and the monthly injections," said Walsh.

The program offered to inmates includes Vivitrol, but it's just one component to the recovery phase.

"So we really do come at it from all three perspectives, instead of just looking at as medication. And that's really how we're addressing the overdose piece because just being on the medication does not prevent them from using other drugs. It also doesn't help solve everything in their lives."

While some inpatient treatment facilities may be at full capacity, Walsh says they are still accepting people for the outpatient program. They are opening up "walk-in" hours every Friday (between 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.) to reach out to those who want to learn how they can get involved with the program.

Summit Psychological Associates will also be hosting a free educational event discuss treatment options and complementary resources that are available in the area on Sept. 16.

A panel of speakers will be available including law enforcement, judges, and representatives from Oriana House and Summit Psychological Associates. Click here to register for the event.

Published in Local
Tuesday, 23 August 2016 11:58

Day Two: One Woman's Journey

Addiction is more than a community problem; it's also a dire issue for the individual who knows they are spiraling out of control and need help gaining control back of their lives.

Erin Helms is a recovering addict who's taken what she's learned from her own personal journey to help others with treatment of alcohol and opiate addiction. She manages The Woodrow Project Erin Helms Recovery Home in Lakewood, Ohio.

Helms says her physician helped her get into a treatment center, where professional help took care of her. She went from in-patient, to out-patient then to aftercare in 2008 but recognizes many treatment centers are filled to the brim today, with waits of weeks or months.

The program she runs now helps women with support, something lacking for many people battling addiction now in northeast Ohio. She says it's a long-term problem and not just a 28-day recovery process.

"I got to a place where I just couldn't feel anymore," she said.

Helms says her journey started after an auto accident, and a pain prescription of Vicodin. She says the prescription eventually ran out, but by then she was hooked and went to the streets to purchase what she needed.

'It's in everybody's best interests to help people in need, so they can rejoin the world again," Helms told WAKR's Ray Horner. She credited the support of her family and the professionals who were there for her when she needed them.

Published in Local

Terry Pluto is an award-winning sportswriter and columnist with the Plain Dealer, and is known across the region for his thoughts and analysis of the Browns, Cavaliers, and Indians. But what may not widely known is his work with prison inmates and addicts in their paths to recovery. Pluto joined the Ray Horner Morning Show to discuss his experience in dealing with struggling or recovering addicts, specifically heroin. In the decades he has been meeting with these victims, Pluto has seen the growth of heroin in these communities, no matter the racial or socioeconomic background. He believes heroin is deadlier than crack cocaine.

Published in WAKR RAY HORNER

This week, the Rubber City Radio Group is putting the spotlight on the heroin epidemic that is not only affecting the Akron area, but across the country. Barberton, a once-bustling area that has fallen on hard times, is one of the communities hit hard by the heroin outbreak. Barberrton City Schools Superintendent Patti Cleary joined the Ray Horner Morning Show to discuss what the Barberton community is doing to educate families of this drug epidemic.

Cleary believes most students understand the risks of heroin, but further education on drug use and its affects will continue to be put in place.

Published in WAKR RAY HORNER

Treating heroin addiction is difficult enough. But a condition such as depression makes treatment even more challenging. Dr. Dustin Blakeslee of Cleveland Clinic Akron General says a heroin treatment patient also suffering from depression usually can't be treated with the traditional course of medicines because they are rendered ineffective. Blakeslee talked to Jasen about the links between heroin abuse and depression and the challenges of treating someone suffering from both.

Published in Jasen Sokol

One of the most pressing issues affecting the heroin crisis is the lack of beds available for treatment. CommQuest Services is working to change that, adding 16 new beds for men to the existing 38 at its Wilson Hall facility in Massillon. While CommQuest President and CEO Keith Hochadel says Stark County's heroin problem isn't as severe as in Summit County, his organization still has a waiting list for beds. Hochadel talked to Jasen about the scope of the heroin problem in Stark County, the expanded treatment facility, and how CommQuest applies the 12-step program to heroin addiction.

Published in Jasen Sokol
Monday, 22 August 2016 07:13

Day One: Dr. Smith From The ADM Board

As we continue to define the heroin problem, officials recognize that it has become an epidemic across the nation, and especially in the Akron area. 

The following is from the Summit County Public Health Population Health Vital Statistics Report: From January 1, 2016 to July 31, 2016, emergency rooms serving Summit County residents have treated an estimated total of 1,019 drug overdoses.* Since the beginning of 2016, cases per day remained relatively low, averaging 3 per day from January 1 - July 4 (Figure 1a). However, beginning in the second week of July, overdoses began rising rapidly from 3 per day to 14 per day through the remainder of July. After reaching 10 cases for the fi rst time on June 26, the number of drug overdoses ended up hitting double-digits on 21 of the 31 days in July, reaching a high of 25 on July 27th. All told, there were 395 estimated overdoses in July 2016, which matched the total number of overdoses seen between March 1 and June 30; a span of 122 days.

We spoke with Dr. Doug Smith with the Summit County ADM Board about what is causing, in part, the surge in heroin-related overdoses here in Summit County: 


Published in Local

It's hard to define just one issue when it comes to the heroin epidemic in Akron. But for Raynard Packard, it's an issue that he faces on the front doorstep of his recovery institute everyday.

"A woman overdosed here," said Packard as he pointed outside the front door of the Packard Institute in West Akron. "Her car came to to a rolling stop in the middle of the street here and she overdosed. The paramedics pulled up and said 'Oh, she's just number 20 today.'"

Right outside the institute sits a sign with the amount of overdoses so far this year. For Packard, it's a daily reminder of the problem that continues to surface in Akron and surrounding communities.

"For us to be effective, in times of true need, we need to continue to be able to provide those different levels of care."

The institute doesn't have the resources to help everyone struggling with an addiction, but the Packard said he has been able to work with more than a thousand people searching for a way out of the heroin cycle.

"I don't mean a 28-day program," said Packard. "I do mean a sustainable, meaningful, tribal system of care."

Packard said he has come across too many people who have lost their lives while waiting for a bed at a treatment facility. Packard hopes additional funding will be made available to open new facilities and educate kids and adults on addiction.

Published in Local
Wednesday, 24 August 2016 05:00

Day Three: Overdose Help Inside Hospitals

You don't have to look far to see the impact the heroin epidemic has had on local hospitals.

Dr. Scott Wilber, chair of emergency medicine at Summa Health System, says they had to move some of the hospital's supply of naloxone to the entrance area -- because time is everything and they may need to administer the drug in a car to save a person's life.

But there are still questions as to what happens after the patient is revived from the anti-heroin drug.

Dr. Wilber said the hospital system works with the ADM Board to provide counselors to discuss treatment options that are available in the community, but Wilber does note that the waiting lists are still there.

"We do find that some patients want immediate treatment for their addiction. However, because of the limited resources we have and the long waits, that's generally not feasible ," said Wilber. "We generally have to put people on waiting lists in order to get them addiction treatment."

While the hospital works with the ADM Board to offer treatment options to overdose victims, some refuse the help.

Wilber said the amount of heroin overdose victims the hospital has treated has increased significantly over the past month.

"We also saw that beginning in July, the potency of the heroin that was being used in Akron increased significantly and we've seen that continue. We have seen some slight decrease since then, but really it is significantly higher than it was earlier this year."


Published in Local
Tuesday, 23 August 2016 05:00

Day Two: Families Need Support, Too

Ask family and friends of the those who have a loved one struggling with addiction and you'll find that the issue impacts them too.

Tonda DeRae of Carrollton is the founder of Holly's Song of Hope, an organization, named after her daughter who passed away from a heroin overdose three years ago, aimed at helping families in need of support.

"When I lost Holly, there really wasn't anything out there for me," said DeRae. "That's that made me go after that first.

Click here to read Holly's story.


"They're like 'Look, my parents tried this and it didn't work at all' or 'they tried that and that really sunk in,'" said DeRae. "So it really helps. It's a real good balance of peer to peer support."DeRae launched an online support group where family and friends can reach out for help, ask questions and hear directly from those in recovery.

More than 1,400 people have joined the online support group on Facebook.

DeRae has worked with Senator Rob Portman to raise awareness on the need for help in Ohio and across the country when it comes to resources for those struggling with a heroin addiction. She's been an outspoken supporter of Portman's Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), designed to pay for education, treatment and recovery programs to prevent drug abuse.

Published in Local
Tuesday, 23 August 2016 05:00

Day Two: VIDEO Waiting For Help

While there are a number of treatment centers available in Summit County for those struggling with a heroin addiction, the problem that continues to arise is the lack of space available to house new patients. For many, getting help begins with their name being placed on a wait list -- which can sometimes lead to a more than a month long wait.

"My memory is a little foggy, but I do remember being on a a wait list for treatment centers and calling in everyday or every other day, sometimes waiting a month or two months," said Rick of Akron. " I hear it's worse now."

Rick has been sober for 11 years. While it's been years since Ricky has contacted a treatment, Rick says he understands the issues some are facing today in the area. 


"We're getting people in a hospital, and we're reviving them with Narcan, saving their life, and then we're going 'bye...goodbye,''"

Tonia Wright's daughter, Kylie, 21, is currently struggling with a heroin addiction and has been on a wait list for treatment for more than a month.

"She's on a waiting list to get into rehab or to get into detox and the waiting list seems to go on and on and on," said Wright. "It's not a problem with insurance because she has our personal insurance, so it's not an insurance problem, it's a facility problem because there's just not enough beds."

Wright calls it a "traumatizing " experience, especially to see her daughter's boyfriend overdose twice.

It's a bitter battle for Kylie who has struggled to stay clean while waiting for a spot to open at a local treatment facility.

"You just don't know how to get out and you can't no matter how hard you try," said Kylie.

While Kylie says she has gone through months without using heroin, she says slip-ups are bound to happen when the proper treatment is not available.

"You never completely recover from it, no matter how long. You know what I mean? You're always an addict."

Published in Local
Thursday, 11 August 2016 19:43

AUDIO: Mary Taylor Talks Heroin Epidemic

With the heroin epidemic seemingly spinning out of control, many people are asking what the government is doing to address it. Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor joined Jasen to talk about what the state is doing and what more it can do to address the quickly growing problem.

Published in Jasen Sokol
Wednesday, 10 August 2016 08:05

Heroin Epidemic Takes Center Stage

"No more heroin."
Those words from the crowd of more than a thousand at Lock 3 Tuesday evening as family and friends of loved ones struggling with a heroin addiction called on city and state officials to offer help and additional resources in the city. 
"This is the hardest, and worst hit communities in the world in my eyes, and I see it everyday," said event organizer Billy Pfaff of Massachusetts. 
Pfaff launched the Facebook page "Heroin is killing my town" to fight against the heroin epidemic. His online videos has gained national attention. He encouraged people to come together and call on state and federal officials to make a change -- citing the lack of space available at treatment centers across the area. 

"There's no beds," said Pfaff. "We need to get beds and we need to get them right now." 
David Rutters of Akron was at the "Call to Action" event passing out flyers with the names and phone numbers of those who are in recovery and willing to talk to someone who is currently struggling with a heroin addiction. 
"If you don't have support, you're doomed," said Rutters. "You have to have a good support system. That's a big deal."  
Rutters said the event helped to paint a picture of the diversity of those affected by the heroin problem in Akron and surrounding communities. 
"Everybody here is here because they've probably lost somebody. We're not all here because we're just addicts." 
But it wasn't just the people making a statement at the event. Take for example a white Mustang that was sitting in the middle of the park.
"We sanded it off like four months ago and then had people that lost a loved one to heroin sign the car and then we'll clear coat it," said Phillip Clute with the Warriors Project in Canton, an organization that provides support for those battling an addiction. 
An online petition to request a state of emergency in Ohio has collected more than 5-thousand signatures.
Published in Local

Heroin continues to dominate the topic of discussions in Akron after hundreds of overdoses were reported in the area over the past month.

In the past two years, Adam Hayes of Akron says he has lost over 30 friends to heroin. Hayes hopes to be part of the solution to the heroin epidemic and raise awareness in the community. That's why he's helping to organize an "Call to Action" event in downtown Akron Tuesday night.

"I got involved because of all the friends I have lost and also because want to do something positive and be a positive role model for my son and my daughter," said Hayes.

Hayes hopes the event will not only raises awareness, but also focus on the ways to create more space at treatment facilities and provide training on administering the drug naloxone save the lives of heroin overdose victims. Hayes was inspired by Billy Pfaff, of Massachusetts, who is the founder of the non-profit anti-heroin organization Heroin is Killing My Town.

Pfaff posted a video on Facebook stating that the city of Akron is the hardest hit area that he has come across and that he would travel to the Rubber City to raise awareness. The video has been shared more than 9,000 times and has more than 280,000 views.

Hayes said he contacted Pfaff to organize Tuesday night's event on South Main Street near Lock 3 at 7 p.m. The event will be followed by a candlelight vigil. 

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It's not just heroin that's the problem in a string of heroin overdoses in the Akron area.

NewsChannel 5 reports that police believe that heroin laced with carfentanil - an animal tranquilizer - is responsible for more deadly overdoses.

88 overdoses in the city of Akron in the past 10 days have killed 8 people. The powerful animal anesthetic is being linked to two of the deaths, on Akron's Copley Road and in New Franklin.

The drug is so new to police, that Akron and Cleveland police have visited the Cleveland Zoo, where it's used on large animals such as elephants.


On the Web: WEWS NewsChannel 5, www.newsnet5.com


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The outbreak of heroin continues to spread, and it is happening in our own backyard. In the Akron area, there were 15 reported overdoses on heroin in a ten-hour span. Senator Rob Portman joined the Ray Horner Morning Show to talk CARA, the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act. Portman has been passionate about this issue, and has been looking to get it passed with a bipartisan effort. The Ohio senator wants to educate people, both addicts and non-users, about the dangers of opiates, as heroin overdoses have become the number-one accidental death in the state of Ohio, losing five or six people a day on average. Portman warns of the dangers of pill overdose, as four out of five heroin addicts were exposed to the opiates from prescription medication. In Ohio, according to Portman, there have been about as many heroin overdoses already in 2016 than there were in all of 2015.

Published in WAKR RAY HORNER

17 overdoses and one death in one day have city and county officials reacting to Akron's heroin epidemic.

Akron mayor Dan Horrigan says the problem can't just be solved by arresting people.

"We must realize while our first responders continue to bear the brunt of this epidemic," Horrigan told reporters at a news conference at the Summit County Public Health Department, "this is long past moved into the public health crisis, and away from a public safety crisis that afflicts many communities across our state and across our country."

And Akron police chief James Nice, his department investigating what happened Tuesday and any link between the cases, says the epidemic will continue while the supply keeps coming in...which nothing that local police can stop...

"But as long as the supply is coming in so strong from Mexico, which the Akron Police Department is not able to do much from it coming into the country," Chief Nice says, "we're going to have problems with heroin as long as it coming into the country so easily."

The overdoses happened in the afternoon and evening hours in various parts of Akron.

A 44 year-old man died, and among those who survived were a mother and two adult daughters, who all overdosed at the same time.

Most survived thanks to the anti-heroin drug. Narcan, but police say that the heroin may have been laced with fentanyl...which is more resistant to Narcan.

As of early Wednesday afternoon, two more overdoses have been reported.

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Wednesday, 06 July 2016 06:55

15 Heroin Overdoses In Akron Tuesday

Akron Police were busy with 15 heroin overdose-related calls Tuesday. 

The first call came in around 1 p.m., and the calls continued throughout the evening Tuesday. Reports of heroin overdoses were coming from all over Akron, including one call about 4 overdoses in one apartment on Copley Road. The Summit County Coroner's Office reports that one 44-year-old man died from overdose symptoms; an autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday. 

Akron PD reports that there have been 55 heroin overdose deaths over the first 6 months of 2016. 

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The mother, grandmother, and two others charged in the heroin death of a 16-year-old have officially been indicted.

A Summit County Grand Jury handed down the indictment against four people includingmother Heather Frye, 31, grandmother Brenda Frye, 52, both of Akron, and Jessica Irons, 34, of Stow.

The three are facing several charges including involuntary manslaughter in the death of 16-year-old Andrew Frye who was found dead at a hotel room in Green on April 6th. Police say all three were in the hotel room prior to Andrew's death.

Authorities also discovered that the heroin Andrew used was obtained from the grandmother boyfriend, Donald Callaghan, 58, of Akron. He has been charged with possession of heroin.

All four are scheduled to be arraigned on May 4.

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Sen. Rob Portman has been upset with the House, after repeatedly urging them to pass their version of the Comprehensive Addition and Recovery Act - which passed the Senate easily in March.

Rep. Jim Renacci explains that the House process involves a lot of similar bills linked to heroin and opioid abuse on that side of Congress.

"So there are a number of bills floating around the house, hopefully we can get these moving and passed," Rep. Renacci tells WAKR's Jasen Sokol, "then we'll bring them together in conference with (Senator) Portman's bill, and then hopefully get a bill passed that we can all agree to."

The House version of the bill is sponsored by Rep. Tim Ryan.

The other bills in the House include a bill creating guidelines for health professionals and one that would have grants to reduce opioid abuse.

Renacci says the process is involved.

"When we get a bill out of the House and it goes to the Senate, it sort of takes them time to get to understand the bill and see what's in it," Renacci says. "Same thing happens when a bill comes from the Senate. The House starts looking at it, and of course when you have 435 members, they have different ideas."

Published in Jasen Sokol

A Cleveland man will spend seven years behind bars in connection with a Summit County heroin death.

25 year-old Gary Matthews pled guilty to providing heroin to 25 year-old Jordan Gerycz who died after taking the drug.

Gerycz was found unconscious in his father's home in August of 2015. Matthews admitted to selling him the heroin after an investigation from Cuyahoga Falls police.

Matthews was charged with involuntary manslaughter and trafficking in heroin.

According to the Summit County Prosecutor's Office, Matthews has a long criminal history and even told police he had been selling drugs since he was 11 years old.

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Senator Rob Portman says the "Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act" - designed to pay for education, treatment and recovery programs to try to stop drug abuse - has a lot of bipartisan support.

But as the bill starts its journey in the Senate, Portman realizes getting even well-supported legislation through Congress is not easy...especially in a busy political year.

"Even though it's legislation that my colleagues seem to support, this is Congress, and it's really hard to get stuff done around here," Portman tells Ohio reporters in a conference call. "So, I am hopeful that we'll have enough momentum to push through the politics of the year, and actually get something done here."

Sen. Portman tells reporters on a conference call that the heroin epidemic is a "real crisis" in Ohio, and believes the legislation will help battle that problem.

He says there is bipartisan support in the House as well.

Monday, the Senate voted 89 to 0 to begin consideration of the bill.

Published in Local
Tuesday, 09 February 2016 15:28

Community Leaders Discuss Heroin Epidemic

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan held a round table discussion with Akron area community leaders to find a solution to the growing heroin epidemic.

Ryan says the big takeaway from the discussion is trying to find a way to give more money to local agencies.

"These communities need money," Ryan tell WAKR.net. "They need resources whether it is on the prosecution side, law enforcement side, drug court side, treatment side. They need help and there have been a lot of federal cuts in the last few years. "

In addition to low funds, Ryan says there is a need to remove current restrictions that prevent some people from getting proper treatment.

"Right now there is a limitation because the law only allows people a certain number of beds who are dealing with addiction issues," Ryan said. "We want to get rid of that barrier so that these folks that need a place to go have a place to go."

Ryan also says the federal government needs to crack down harder on penalties for selling and distributing fentanyl and heroin.

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Saturday, 30 January 2016 11:51

Akron Man Jailed for Heroin Death

An Akron man was sentenced to seven years in prison for selling heroin to a woman who died from taking it.

Trevon Thomas, 20, of Sumner Street, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and with aggravated trafficking in drugs--both felonies--in his role for the death of Carissa Ewing, 28.

He pled guilty to the charges.

On November 2014, Ewing, was found unresponsive in her home by her mother. It was determined that heroin and fentanyl was in her system.

Investigators contacted Thomas acting as Ewing wanting more drugs and arrested Thomas when he arrived.

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