8 dead from suspected overdoses over Memorial Day weekend; Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner issues public health emergency

18 have died from suspected overdoses since May 20

8 dead from suspected overdoses over Memorial Day weekend; Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner issues public health emergency
File photo - The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office reports an increasing number of overdose victims are African American.

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio (WOIO) - Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson issued a public health alert after eight people died of suspected overdoses in Cuyahoga County over the Memorial Day Weekend.

At least 18 suspected overdose deaths have occurred since May 20, he added.

Fentanyl -- a highly potent opiate that is sometimes mixed with heroin -- is likely to blame for the recent rash of deaths.

“I’m deeply concerned about the number of overdose fatalities we’ve seen within the past week. Additionally, we are seeing a high percentage of African American victims — 50 percent.” said Gilson in a prepared statement. “While we are still gathering information, early indications are that many of the fatalities are a result of fentanyl/crack cocaine. We are coordinating efforts with other major metropolitan areas within Ohio to see if they are experiencing the same.”

Cuyahoga County, The United States Attorney’s Office, Cleveland Police Department, and other community partners are working together to curb the unfolding public health emergency.

Free fentanyl test strips are available at the following locations:

If you or anyone that you know is actively using or recovering from opioid addiction, contact Project DAWN for information at 216-778-5677. Eligible program participants, are given FREE Naloxone kits – the opioid reversing antidote.

Additionally, the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County provides a 24-hour crisis hotline at 216-623-6888.

Copyright 2019 WOIO. All rights reserved.