Heroin task force leader: Not clear yet what led to 21 overdoses in 1 day

Published: Aug. 24, 2016 at 2:04 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2016 at 2:04 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - It's not clear yet what led to a massive wave of heroin overdoses that hit Cincinnati's west side Tuesday, the leader of Hamilton County's Heroin Coalition Task Force said Wednesday.

Twenty-one overdoses were reported between 12 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday. Fourteen of those were in the city's District 3 area, said Tom Synan, Newtown's police chief who heads up the task force.

Cincinnati police said the overdoses are not concentrated to any specific neighborhood in District 3, which covers neighborhoods such as Price Hill, Westwood and North and South Fairmount.

Authorities are looking into whether the overdoses are connected by a possibly potent batch. So far, no one from Tuesday's overdoses has died.

"I think it's too soon to know who is the source. I think it's too soon to know what the drug was laced with, if anything," Synan said.

"Right now, we are in the preliminary stages of trying to find out if the overdoses over the weekend, about 30, and then the 21 from Cincinnati last night are connected or not.

"Right now, I can tell you all the resources from the Cincinnati Police Department,  the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition Task Force, the Fusion Task Force will be working with our local and state law enforcement partners to gather intelligence, share it and then track it down to where it leads us."

On average, two deaths and 20-25 overdoses are reported weekly in Hamilton County, Synan said.

"I have seen as high as six to seven deaths in one week, which prompted the coalition to issue a warning which goes to first responders, groups working with users, treatment facilities, hospitals and elected officials," he said. "Recently, we had a three week period in which there were no reported overdose deaths. Should put what has happened over the weekend and last night in some perspective."

Sgt. Stephen Wheeles with the Versailles District of Indiana State Police tweeted that officers also responded to numerous overdoes in Jennings County Tuesday.

Seymour police announced on their Facebook page they arrested a 34-year-old man and charged him in connection those overdoses, ones that resulted in a single death and several men and women being transported to Schneck Medical Center for evaluation.

"As a result of the investigation into these overdoses Seymour Police Department has placed 34 year old Seymour resident Michael Purvis under arrest," their Facebook page posting states.

"Purvis faces multiple counts of Dealing in a Controlled Substance....Seymour Police Department is working in conjunction with Jennings County Sheriffs Department, and the Indiana State Police to find the source of the items consumed. Currently 12 overdoses have been reported in the Jennings County area. It was first reported multiple lives had been lost, but due to the relentless efforts of police, fire, EMS, and hospital staff currently only 1 death has been reported."

Synan said it's too soon to say if there could potentially be a link to the Cincinnati overdoses Tuesday with the ones in Indiana, or with Purvis.

Lt. Steve Saunders, Cincinnati police spokesman, released an overdose warning Tuesday night that read in part:

"The Cincinnati Police Department has received preliminary information that there have been a very high number of Heroin related overdoses in the area today. This has been generalized on the west side of the Cincinnati but it does not mean this compound it is not in other areas. 

The Cincinnati Police Department is working to identify commonalities in the overdoses in an effort to determine the source of this dangerous drug currently being circulated."

Anyone with information that could be helpful to this investigative effort is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 513-352-3040.

There are treatment options and support for those struggling with heroin addiction. Click here to access local resources. 

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