Mom who lost son to heroin overdose calls for state of emergency in Ohio

Mom who lost son to heroin overdose calls for state of emergency in Ohio
Camelia's son RJ pictured with his one-year-old son Ryder before his death. (Source: Camelia Carter)
Camelia's son RJ pictured with his one-year-old son Ryder before his death. (Source: Camelia Carter)

FAIRVIEW PARK, OH (WOIO) - So far this year, just in Cuyahoga County, we're approaching 300 overdose deaths from heroin.

A local mom who lost her son to a heroin overdose is calling for a state of emergency in Ohio to fight the epidemic. In just five days, more than 7,700 people have signed the petition.

Camelia Carter of Fairview Park says the heroin epidemic needs to be taken more seriously. Carter's son RJ was just 25 years old when his addiction to heroin cost him his life.

"My son had a demon that followed him around, and if he wasn't careful it would swallow him whole," she said.

RJ died in May, and left behind his son Ryder, who is going on two years old. Carter remembers the better days.

"My baby boy was an amazing human who would do anything for anyone," she said.

She now wears a necklace that holds the ashes of her son.

She founded a group called No More Heroin and started a petition on change.org, calling for a state of emergency in Ohio.

"The more I was talking to people, the more I realized we need a state of emergency to make this happen, to get people the help they need," Carter said.

Carter's goal is to unlock additional funding to get more resources out there to fight heroin addiction. She says small steps to fight heroin may mean well, but they aren't enough.

"It's spreading and it's not going to stop, and I'm not going to shut up, I'm not going to go away," she said.

Carter hopes to have 50,000 signatures for her petition by the end of the month.

The governor of Massachusetts declared a state of emergency due to heroin and opioid deaths in 2014. That move immediately provided all first responders with Narcan and poured $20 million into drug treatment services.

Cleveland 19 News contacted Gov. John Kasich's office regarding the petition. Press Secretary Emmalee Kalmbach sent us this statement: The governor's heart breaks for parents who've lost a son or daughter to drugs. We applaud Camelia's strength to stand up in our fight against drugs and her determination that no other parent should ever know the pain she's experiencing.  The governor is treating this drug epidemic with a sense of emergency and not a day goes by where he doesn't talk about what it will take to make progress against this ever-evolving war on drugs.

The Governor's Office says there is no specific authority under Ohio law to declare a "public health" emergency. They say the governor can issue an executive order, authorizing emergency actions. He did this during a mumps outbreak in 2014, which made it easier for pharmacies to get vaccines to patients who need them.

"Despite the recent increase in opiate deaths (driven this year by fentanyl), we believe that Ohio has the most comprehensive approach in the nation for taking on this epidemic," his office wrote to us in an email.

A few years ago, Kasich established the Governor's Cabinet Opiate Action Team to fight opiate abuse in Ohio. You can find more information on their initiatives here. To read more about Camelia Carter's petition, click here.

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