The Cincinnati Enquirer sent 60 reporters, photographers and videographers into their communities to chronicle the opioid crisis during a week in July, tracking 18 deaths and 180 overdoses. The reporting, presented in a 20-page section, found 210 inmates in the Hamilton County Justice Center, the region’s largest jail, who admitted to using heroin or other opioids. Jail officials estimated that as many as half of all inmates, about 870 this week, have an opioid problem. The cost to taxpayers to house those 210 inmates for one week was $95,550. Some 15 babies were born with health problems because their mothers used heroin or other opioids. Authorities opened 34 investigations in southwest Ohio into the well-being of a child whose parent or guardian was known or suspected of using heroin or other opioids. First responders took 102 hours and 42 minutes to tend to overdose patients. This figure is considered low by dispatch supervisors because many overdose runs are not initially called in as such.
Enquirer editor Peter Bhatia said that two years ago, Terry DeMio became perhaps the only reporter nationwide devoted to full-time coverage of opioid addiction. Bhatia said her reporting brought into sharp relief the costs of addiction, the personal toll it takes on families and individuals, and the increasing percentage of time first responders devote to addiction-caused emergencies. The newspaper decided to do more, planning to send a team of journalists to the entire metropolitan area. Bhatia said, “We set out to do this project to not to affirm or deny differing views on the cost of battling addiction and its impact. Rather, we set out to understand how it unfolds day in and day out. I believe you will find what we found to be staggering.”