(CLEVELAND) - Cuyahoga County is in the middle of a public health crisis, with more than 600 heroin, cocaine and fentanyl deaths in 2016, and a projection of up to 850 deaths in 2017. According to the Centers for Disease Control, four out of five new heroin users started with an addiction to prescription opioids.
As part of an ongoing effort to stem the tide of addiction and overdose, a new task force has been formed, made up of individuals from local hospitals, Cuyahoga County, the US Attorney's Office and the Medical Examiner's Office, along with members of almost every media outlet in Cleveland. It's known as the "Know the Risks" campaign.
While much of the community efforts have been focused on treating addicts, supporting families, controlling the spread of deadly drugs, arresting dealers and performing autopsies on the deceased, public education must also be a part of the solution.
The campaign started with local advertising agency Doner, who created an awareness campaign, free of charge. Global Prairie is donating time to lead the accompanying social media effort. Northeast Ohio media outlets including radio, television, billboard, print, digital and online, are all donating air time for commercials and extensive news coverage, including a live phone bank on April 6 from 5 to 11:30 p.m.
“What the Cleveland area media is doing is truly unprecedented,” said Christine Merritt of the Ohio Broadcasters Association. “All media outlets on all platforms are not just covering the story, they are being advocates for the community, leveraging their platforms and their extensive reach to get the word out.” The Cavs, Downtown Cleveland Alliance, and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority are also joining the effort, donating advertising space to the cause. Area hospitals will utilize their social media platforms to spread the word and will work internally with providers to educate patients on the risks associated with opioid use. Cleveland based HKM will donate printed materials and other collateral that will be seen across the county. HP Manufacturing agreed to donate materials, time and expertise for a public event to be revealed in May.
“Last year Cuyahoga County lost more than 600 of our own to overdose deaths,” said David F. Perse, MD, president and CEO of St. Vincent Charity Medical Center. “That’s one every 13 hours. Five years ago at Rosary Hall, we were admitting 4 to 5 patients a week for opiate addiction. Today, we are admitting 4 to 5 patients a day.”