CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OH (WOIO) - Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spent Thursday meeting with officials from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, picking their brains for insight and information. The heroin and fentanyl crisis is so huge in northeast Ohio, along with the rest of the country, that the CDC is stepping in to see what it can do to help.
Vince Caraffi is not only the supervisor of the Cuyahoga County Health Department, he is also the chair of the Cuyahoga County Opiate Task Force.
"They are trying to gather information on the increase in fentanyl deaths. That's kind of the focus of today's meeting and building upon what works," described Caraffi.
We may not hear about it as often, but fentanyl is a painkiller that is 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. Experts say there has been a crushing wave of overdose deaths caused recently by fentanyl mixed with heroin.
"Unfortunately, the material that we are dealing with is what we consider a basement-grade fentanyl. It's a prescription medication, but we are pretty clear that it's not coming from the hospital system," explained Caraffi.
According to the CDC, in Ohio alone, there were 502 deaths linked to the use of fentanyl last year. Compare that to 2013, when 84 deaths were attributed to fentanyl use.
"We know that transition that goes from pills to heroin. They are trying to figure out what are those unique aspects of fentanyl abuse that could be incorporated into a prevention message. How do you reach those individuals that are dealing with the illness? How do you reach out to parents? How do you reach out to treatment providers? What role does law enforcement play in this?" added Caraffi.
The CDC is also planning to meet with health officials in Ohio's Hamilton and Montgomery counties. They will also make a stop in Portsmouth, OH.