CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Senator Sherrod Brown toured the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's office on Friday and participated in a roundtable discussion with county leaders on the issue of opiate use and abuse.
According to information provided by the county, in February 2017 more than 60 people died of opiate overdose deaths, making it the deadliest month for Cuyahoga County opiate overdose deaths. So far in 2017, 396 people have died of heroin, fentanyl, analog drugs or a combination of those drugs.
Cuyahoga county medical examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson told the senator that it's possible that 1,000 people could die in Cuyahoga county of an opiate overdose in a single year.
"This is the case we've never seen before where regardless of whether you live in Solon or Garfield Heights or Appalachia or East Cleveland it afflicts far too many people," Brown said.
Brown joined in a roundtable discussion with Gilson, Cuyahoga county executive Armond Budish, Cuyahoga county sheriff Clifford Pinkney, and MetroHealth doctor Joan Papp.
Budish told the Senator that another issue the county has in fighting the epidemic is there are not enough treatment beds available for those who need them.
"We've had a situation where there's no place for them to go," Budish said. "And 24 hours later they're dead."
Papp spoke about some of the steps that have been taken locally to try to get the problem under control. She told Brown that doctors need to be further educated on signals to watch out for that patients may need treatment, and also the importance of not cutting off patients who have become addicted, but rather pointing them to treatment.
Brown also spoke with Cleveland 19 about the importance of Medicaid in the fight to treat those with addiction issues.
Cleveland 19 asked Brown, and Gilson to address those who may be tired of hearing about the opiate epidemic.
"I just want it go away, that's kind of like pretending the problem doesn't exist, and that's a great way to not solve the problem and if it hasn't come to your doorstep it's a great way to invite it there," said Gilson.
"People may be sick of hearing about it, but we're still seeing this terrible problem and families afflicted, families never getting over what happens when they lose a child, or lose a mother, or lose a sister. I just think we need to have we have to do more of an all hands on deck than we're doing," Brown said.
The senator and county officials also promoted Prescription Drug Take Back Day on October 28th. Brown said that drugs would be taken at several sites, no questions asked.
"The opioid addiction epidemic is one of the biggest public health emergencies in my lifetime -- and all too often addiction starts in the family medicine cabinet," Brown said. "Unused prescription medicines – especially addictive opioid painkillers – must be disposed of in a safe, responsible way to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands."
A list of drug take-back sites can be found at this link.