Ohio Attorney General DeWine Announces Formation of Overdose Prevention Task Force

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September 30, 2014

Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840
Jill Del Greco: 614-466-3840

Ohio Attorney General DeWine Announces Formation of Overdose Prevention Task Force

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today announced the formation of a new task force to address issues regarding the real-time reporting of drug overdose deaths in Ohio.

The Overdose Prevention Task Force, which held its first meeting this morning, is chaired by Montgomery County Coroner and Ohio State Coroners Association Chief Forensic Officer Kent Harshbarger, M.D.

Attorney General DeWine formed the task force after efforts by his office to gather up-to-date statewide statistics on heroin overdose deaths revealed that Ohio lacks a standard protocol for classifying drug overdose fatalities.  There is also no method in place to publicly report overdose deaths in real time.

"It is critical that law enforcement, policy makers, and members of the public have up-to-date access to data regarding drug overdose trends so that we can address these problems as they are happening," said Attorney General DeWine.  "We have a very diverse group of representatives on this task force who will look at what needs to happen to allow uniform data to be readily available."

Statistics gathered by the Attorney General's Office from coroner's offices in Ohio revealed that heroin killed 910 people in 2013, however, because tracking and classification methods vary across the state, the actual number of 2013 heroin overdose deaths is believed to exceed 1,000 lives lost.  Other than this data, the most recent public statewide data regarding opiate overdose deaths is in regards to fatalities that occurred in 2012.

“I am honored to be a part of this effort to improve upon the already unique and professional death investigation system in the State of Ohio as it relates to heroin overdose deaths," said Dr. Harshbarger.  "The Coroners Association is looking forward to working in partnership with public health and the others on the assembled team as real-time data collection allows for emerging trends to be better understood.  Also, I am personally grateful for the support offered by Attorney General DeWine in this and other initiatives to improve death investigations.”  

In addition to Dr. Harshbarger, the 15-member task force also includes the following representatives from the Ohio State Coroners Association, Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, Buckeye State Sheriffs Association, Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, and Ohio Attorney General's Office:

  • David Applegate, M.D., Union County Coroner
  • Christie Beeghly, Ohio Department of Health
  • Jennifer Biddinger, Ohio Attorney General's Office
  • Tedd Frazier, Jackson County Sheriff
  • Jonathan Fulkerson, Ohio Attorney General's Office
  • William Goslee, Logan County Prosecutor
  • Joseph Morbitzer, Westerville Police Chief
  • Morris Murray, Defiance County Prosecutor
  • Judy Nagy, Ohio Department of Health
  • John Paulson, Ohio Department of Health
  • Stewart Ryckman, M.D., Richland County Coroner
  • James Sabin, Madison County Sheriff
  • Kevin Sharrett, M.D., Greene County Coroner
  • Brandon Standley, Bellefontaine Police Department

Following their discussions, members of the task force will issue their recommendations for strengthening current overdose death classification and tracking procedures.