CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Thousands of people die each year in Ohio from drug overdoses, and now, the DEA in Cleveland is introducing a new program that encompasses enforcement, prevention and treatment.
It’s called Cleveland 360. Cleveland was selected to take part in the national campaign this year. Since 2016, it has been implemented in 14 other cities like Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
The idea is to continue the traditional approach of taking down massive drug operations, but also bringing awareness to young and impressionable Ohioans.
“It’s never too early to learn about drugs and to be aware of the dangers," explained Cleveland DEA Acting ASAC James Goodwin.
Schools in Cuyahoga, Lorain and Summit counties are already signed up to have a community outreach specialist from the DEA speak in classrooms about drug dangers. Goodwin said students in elementary, middle and high school will learn about various types of drugs, with a focus on prescription drug abuse.
“It’s over $6,000 worth of curriculum that DEA’s making available to the schools," Goodwin said.
According to statistics from the DEA, drug overdoses claim the lives of more than 5,000 Ohioans each year.
This year, officials are predicting more than 750 overdose deaths will be reported in Cuyahoga County alone. According to statistics from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiners Office, there have been 222 deaths so far this year from fentanyl and heroin.
Agents with the DEA already complete large scale investigations focusing on targeting major drug dealers. Now, they’re using a community outreach component to complete the circle of drug prevention, bringing the focus through a full “360 degree” circle.
Goodwin said after seeing the programs’s success in other cities, it’s now Cleveland’s turn.
“Because we have been experiencing such a problem in the last couple years with the opioid epidemic, this is an opportunity to bring it all together in the city of Cleveland," he said.
The DEA has created a website called “Wake Up Cleveland!” to help with resources. Click here to find out more.