Heroin and opioid abuse continues to be the most deadly problem facing our region.
In Ohio in 2016, 4,149 people died from unintentional overdoses from heroin, fentanyl and other drugs -- a 36 percent increase from the previous year. And in many of our cities and counties, officials expect 2017 to have even more overdose deaths than last year.
Our friends and neighbors are dying.
And even if you don’t know someone struggling with addiction that doesn’t mean you won’t be affected. Emergency responders spend countless hours responding to overdoses. Impaired drivers from opioids have caused dozens of crashes on our roads.
That’s why at WCPO we have been focused on covering this problem in-depth for more than four years.
But our coverage goes beyond just talking about the problem. Anyone who has been around this region or read or watched the news over the last five to 10 years knows opioid addiction is a plague on our community.
We don’t want you to spend your time simply wading through journalism that tells you there is a problem. Instead, we focus on:
- Possible solutions in battling this epidemic
- Ways our government and health care systems could be improved
- Stories of hope – people who have beaten addiction or programs that are working
- Hidden impacts of opioid addiction
- What our government officials and other leaders are doing to fight this problem
Nearly two years ago, WCPO founded a heroin advisory board that includes medical experts, treatment specialists, social workers, law enforcement officers and parents who have lost children to heroin. The group advises WCPO’s Editorial Board on the challenges our community faces when it comes to heroin.
We listen and use the group’s feedback to shape our coverage.
Some examples of that coverage include:
- We produced a six-part digital and TV series – capped by a one-hour, Emmy Award winning TV special -- on the broken system of treatment and why it isn’t helping people suffering from addiction like it should.
- Journalists Dave Holthaus and Emily Maxwell worked with partners at Newsy, a video journalism brand also owned by our parent company E.W. Scripps, to look at how our region’s approaches to tackling addiction compares to other areas – including in Seattle where people are allowed to shoot up heroin in supervised sites. For that story, our team traveled to Seattle and Vancouver.
- We spotlighted 13 people recovering from addiction to show the challenges they face and that there is hope. “As long as someone is breathing and their heart is beating, there is hope,” one woman told us.
- We investigated how addiction to heroin could put our region at risk for a massive HIV outbreak.
In addition to resources for help in dealing with addiction, you can see all of our coverage of the opioid crisis at WCPO.com/ConqueringAddiction. The special section is divided into four areas:
- Heroin: How We Respond is our collection of WCPO editorials, staff columns and opinion pieces by contributors focused on advocating for solutions.
- Heroin: Special Reports collects our best in-depth journalism on this topic.
- More on Heroin pulls in all of our daily coverage of heroin and opioid-related topics.
- Conquering Addiction contains articles about the addiction epidemic from across the country.
No media organization in town can match the solution-focused journalism we have produced so far on this important topic.
But we aren’t done covering this problem. We will continue to report on solutions and stories of hope. We will continue to investigate how the government and other systems could be improved to better combat this epidemic and keep people safe. We will continue to uncover hidden ways addiction is affecting our community.
We know the complicated challenges of addiction aren’t going to be solved overnight. We won’t give up on our reporting either.
Mike Canan is editor of WCPO.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram at @Mike_Canan.