- Associated Press - Friday, September 2, 2016

CINCINNATI (AP) - Cincinnati officials on Friday announced new plans to fight heroin in the aftermath of an unprecedented spike in overdoses in the area.

Mayor John Cranley says the city wants to expand efforts to keep users alive and get them into treatment. The city is working with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and the state has shipped more overdose-reversing naloxone.

“This is an epidemic in our community that must be addressed,” Cranley said, adding in a statement that Cincinnati firefighters have responded to nearly 1,600 overdose emergencies this year. The city also plans to form quick-response teams that include police, emergency medical personnel and an opiate case manager to visit people soon after they recover from their overdoses, and to launch an educational community outreach program for recognizing and responding to opioid overdoses.

Earlier Friday, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil said lab tests confirmed that heroin seized in a recent arrest was mixed with carfentanil, a powerful tranquilizer for elephants, as well as the painkiller fentanyl.

Authorities suspect heroin laced with other substances has been responsible for the surge in overdoses in the Cincinnati area and several other communities in recent weeks. The Hamilton County Heroin Coalition and other authorities say nearly 300 overdoses have been reported in the Cincinnati area beginning Aug. 19. The overdose cases slowed down in the last week, but still are above usual levels.

The sheriff’s office said the amount seized Aug. 26 was relatively small, but was significant because of the danger posed by carfentanil’s strength.

Investigators said they also recovered cocaine and marijuana from the vehicle stopped on Interstate 75 in Cincinnati. Authorities say grand jury action is pending for two Cincinnati-area men.

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Follow Dan Sewell at https://www.twitter.com/dansewell

For some of his other recent stories: https://bigstory.ap.org/content/dan-sewell

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