Ohio Attorney General Launches New Heroin Unit

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Ohio has a heroin epidemic.

That's according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine who announced Monday morning the formation of a statewide heroin unit meant to address the rising number of heroin overdoses in the state of Ohio.

"Communities have to wake up. If you don't think there is a problem, you are probably wrong," DeWine said.

DeWine shared data from 47 of Ohio's 88 counties which shows a 107 percent increase in heroin overdoses from 2010 to 2013.

According to the data there were 292 heroin deaths in 2010 compared to 606 in 2012. Also, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Invesitgations has reported a near-doubling of heroin cases in the past three years with 4,238 cases reported in 2013, as opposed to just 2,182 in 2010.

DeWine says the reason just over half of Ohio's counties are represented is because some counties have different methods of classifying drug related deaths, specifically where more than one drug is involved, while some counties don't record them at all.

The counties reporting the largest number of heroin doses in 2012 include Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, and Montgomery county.

Many southeastern Ohio counties did not report their numbers to the Attorney General's office.

The parents of 20-year-old Marin Riggs of Upper Arlington also attended Monday's conference. Riggs died in January 2012 of a heroin overdose. Heidi Riggs, Marin's mother, was emotional as she shared the story of her daughter's addiction and death.

"This can happen to any family. It doesn't just happen to kids whose parents are uninvolved in their lives. It doesn't just happen to low income families," Riggs said.

The new heroin unit will be made up of investigators, lawyers, and drug abuse awareness specialists. It's expected to cost the attorney general's office an additional $1 Million every year. DeWine says he's unsure where those funds will come from and they were "gonna have to find it."

Still, DeWine says action has to be taken at all levels to combat the problem and hopes the new unit will become the go-to resource for those in need.

"New data our office has gathered suggests 11 people die in Ohio every week from a heroin overdose," DeWine said. "These new efforts to fight heroin will not be the full solution to Ohio's heroin problem, but by providing what services we can, we hope to save lives and prevent addiction."