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Twinsburg -- The heroin epidemic is sickening Twinsburg, and city leaders are looking for a way to stop its spread.
"The increased misuse of prescription medications has led to opioid abuse, addiction and overdose, and has created a serious public health issue," said Twinsburg City School District superintendent Kathryn Powers.
Parents, community members and staff are invited to a free, adults-only forum at Twinsburg High School, 10084 Ravenna Road, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m., to learn how to keep their family safe from opioid abuse, find resources and prevent addiction with early intervention.
The forum is a collaboration between Twinsburg City Schools and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Fighting the problem is tough enough, says Twinsburg Police Chief Chris Noga, one of the forum panelists.
"The numbers seem to keep going up and up," he said. "It's so multifaceted. It's not just a criminal problem. It's criminal, it's social, it overwhelms the criminal justice system and health care.
"It taps into our resources. And it doesn't look like it's going to go away any time soon."
More than 700 people in Summit County overdosed on heroin between January and June, according to the Summit County Health Department.
More than 20 of those people overdosed in Twinsburg, including five documented cases in September.
"Twinsburg police have had Narcan in the car for over a year," Noga said. "Within that year, we've had more uses of the Narcan than the automatic external defibrillators we've had in the cars for years."
The defibrillators are used once or twice a year, he said.
Noga said the problem crosses socioeconomic boundaries.
"It's young, old, parents with their children in the same vicinity where heroin use is happening," Noga said.
The problem is that heroin is readily available on the streets.
"It's out there," he said. "We do our part. We've gotten dealers off the streets. But we take one off, it seems another pops up."
The Oct. 17 forum will include a screening of the documentary "Chasing the Dragon," followed by a panel discussion moderated by Brian Duffy of Cleveland 19 News.
Panel participants are Summit County Juvenile Court Judge Linda Teodosio; FBI Special Agent Todd Wickerham; Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Pinjuh; Noga; Summit County ADM Board Executive Director Jerry Craig; member of the recovery community Aaron Marks; and Beech Brook social worker Amanda Nowak.
Powers and Noga are urging everyone to attend the forum.
"It may not be your problem now, but all of us have a potential for it to become a problem for our family," Noga said. "You have to be aware of what's going on in your community and in your household."