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‘Seven Days of Heroin’ Panel Shines a Light on the Opioid Epidemic

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The University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College hosted a discussion on a Pulitizer-prize project from the Cincinnati Enquirer on Thursday, October 25 in the Muntz Hall Auditorium.

A panel including Terry DeMio, heroin reporter for the Enquirer, Kareem Elgazzar, photojournalist for the Enquirer, and Cathy Whittaker, a licensed social worker, spoke about the massive ‘Seven Days of Heroin’ project, the behind-the-scenes reporting that went into the project, the extent of the epidemic and how addicts can get help to overcome their addiction.

While the journalists spoke about the reporting that went into the project, they also touched on other topics such as how it affected their personal lives, why it is necessary to cover this problem and how it has changed throughout the years.

DeMio has been covering the epidemic for the last six years. When she noticed how the problem was escalating, she and her colleagues came to their editor at the Enquirer and brainstormed ideas on how to report the severity of this issue. That’s when work on the massive ‘Seven Days’ project began.

In just one week there were 180 overdoses and 18 deaths reported. That was a normal week in Greater Cincinnati. At the Hamilton County Justice Center one in four cases on the docket were directly connected to heroin in 2017.

“In 2011 St. Elizabeth [Hospital] was able to report to me 252 overdoses that they handled and turned around – the next year it was 455 that they turned around – then next it was 700 something,” says DeMio. “Now we are at almost 2,000 overdose cases that St. Elizabeth handles and turns around [per year].”

Cathy Whittaker provided advice for addicts who are seeking help and how they can get back on the road to recovery.

“It’s finding out what’s underneath it [the addiction] and how to deal with it,” says Whittaker, who also explains that having supportive family and friends plays a big role in recovery.

Whittaker Is an employee at Beckett Springs, a mental health and addiction treatment center located in West Chester Township, OH. She encourages anyone who is struggling with addiction to seek help.

If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with addiction call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or contact the crisis help line by texting “4hope” to 741-741.

You can read the Enquirer’s piece here.

About Lori Rinehart

Lori Rinehart is the Communications Intern at UC Blue Ash for the 2018-19 academic year. Lori studies Journalism and Spanish at the University of Cincinnati Uptown campus.