Heroin: The crisis marking a top campaign issue in mayor race

Heroin: The crisis marking a top campaign issue in mayor race

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Spurred by over prescriptions of opioids and strong synthetics laced in with heroin, parts of the United States are facing the worst drug overdose epidemic in history.

The winner of this year's mayoral contest in Cincinnati will face a increasingly grim opioid crisis in one of the hardest-hit areas in the Buckeye State — a massive undertaking for a city that will likely need allies in the state and on Capitol Hill.

"Candidly, there's a growing awareness of the crisis," Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said about the slow response from higher levels of government. "We need immediate help."

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In many counties like Butler, overdoses have been the leading cause of death for years, dramatically outpacing car crashes and gun violence and is showing no signs of slowing down in the Tri-State.

In 2015, Ohio was second to Florida with the highest number of overdose-related fatalities with 3,310 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of nine deaths per day. Of that, 79 percent were heroin-related.

One of the biggest challenges facing City Hall is developing adequate treatment programs that can break the addiction cycle.

"Some of our EMTs are treating the same person three, four, five times," Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said. "Every single time we release someone, we know they can hurt someone or themselves."

August was a particularly deadly month in Cincinnati with 78 overdoses and three deaths in two days. The introduction of carfentanil, a drug made to sedate large animals was laced in the stream of heroin flowing into the city.

"When people get locked in hopelessness, they get locked in a cycle," Rob Richardson Jr. said about the lack of help available to addicts. "We need to stress treatment over locking people away."

FOX19 NOW and the Cincinnati Enquirer will be hosting a mayoral primary debate on April 27 at noon. Click here to submit your questions for the candidates. The primary is May 2. Incumbent John Cranley will face-off against challengers Councilwoman Yvette Simpson and former University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees Chairman Rob Richardson Jr. The top two finishers will move on to the November general election. 

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