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Mann: City must spend more on heroin crisis

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After hearing a report on the region's heroin epidemic from city officials and community activists Monday, Cincinnati Vice Mayor David Mann introduced a motion asking that the city find ways to combat what he called "the heroin crisis" in the next city budget.

Cincinnati police officers, the fire chief and representatives of groups involved in dealing with drug abuse painted a bleak picture for council's Neighborhoods Committee of the the growing epidemic.

Fire Chief Richard Braun says calls to his department on heroin overdoses are growing.

“In 2012, 13, and 14, we averaged 1,800 runs on heroin use,’’ Braun told the committee. “So far this year, the first four months, we have already done 1,200, which means we will more than double the runs we take with this epidemic.”

Cincinnati police detective Cliff Mitchell told the committee that many of those hooked on heroin started with prescription pain-killers like Oxycontin; and that laws are being tightened in Ohio to slow the abuse and over-prescribing of those “gateway” drugs.

One of the problems, Mitchell said, is that while the prescription opiates are fairly expensive, costing $40 to $80 each, heroin is relatively cheap.

“People are paying as little as $10 to get a hit of heroin,’’ he said.

And it is not just a problem of the urban core, he said.

“It is in the suburban areas and particularly the rural areas as well,’’ he said.

Mann's motion did not spell out how much money the city should spend in the next budget. The committee agreed that the city must continue to be involved in the Hamilton County Heroin Task Force.

Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.