Cuyahoga County is responding to a dramatic increase in heroin use -- and overdose deaths -- in Cleveland and the suburbs by investigating people who lose their lives to the street drug.
Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald Wednesday announced a new initiative aimed at curbing deaths by heroin overdoses, according to various news sources, including cleveland.com.
The program includes a new website and an investigation by the Medical Examiner's Office of each person who dies from a heroin overdose to see if there was a way the death could have been prevented by some type of intervention.
Authorities say heroin use on Ohio has become a near-epidemic, with the addictive drug more available and cheaper than most other narcotics.
Experts say people addicted to presecription medication often switch to heroin because it is less expensive and easier to get.
As of mid-June, 79 people in Cuyahoga County had died from heroin use this year, compared to 107 in all of 2011.
In Strongsville, the drug itself doesn't turn up that often -- officers see more marijuana and cocaine on the streets, according to Detective Lt. John Janowski.
But they see the impact of heroin every day.
"We don't arrest a lot of people with heroin," Janowski said. "But a lot of our thieves are heroin addicts."
Police say a shocking number of shoplifters caught at the mall and other Strongsville businesses are addicted to heroin, stealing to support their expensive habit.
"It's hard to maintain a job and be a heroin addict. You can do marijuana or other drugs and still work," Janowski said.
But the desperation to feed a heroin addiction often drives people to break into houses and cars and -- more often than many people realize -- steal from stores.