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WAYNE COUNTY NEWS: Health commissioner to head overdose committee

WOOSTER  While Health Commissioner Nick Cascarelli is getting ready to lead a new committee that he would like to convene by the middle of the year, his ultimate hope is that it’s a committee that isn’t needed.

Cascarelli was recently appointed by Wayne County Commissioners to implement and chair the Overdose Fatality Review Committee to investigate drug overdose and opioid-involved deaths.

According to health department records, Wayne County saw 40 overdose deaths in 2021, and there were at least 28 deaths in 2022 attributed to overdose. Some deaths are still pending an investigation, according to a Wayne County government news release.

If Cascarelli could clarify one thing, it would be that all overdose deaths are preventable deaths.

“The purpose of the committee is to bring all of the affected agencies together and work to understand these overdose deaths better,” he said in the news release. “We want to know what we can do as a community to prevent future overdose deaths and fatalities; that is the ultimate goal.”

Numerous agencies throughout the county have a stake in preventing overdose deaths.

“The Ohio Revised Code allows for this as long as the county commissioners establish the board,” he said in the release. “This is a permissive board, not a required board. It will be comprised of people that have a genuine concern for those facing drug addiction problems. Our goal is to stop preventable deaths.”

The committee will create a database and compile demographic information, circumstances, and geographic location regarding the events surrounding each overdose death in the county. Using that information, the committee will devise strategies that various agencies in the community can utilize.

Cascarelli is begrudgingly prepared for the task.

“First, we need to identify who is best fitted to be on the committee and invite them to participate,” he said. “I sincerely hope that this is a committee that is never needed.”

What is especially complicated for Cascarelli is determining who is authorized to access the information committee members will be dealing with, like previous treatment programs and court records. Once everyone is on board, he hopes to convene by mid-year.

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