Trib turns attention to two health crises

As it is the first day of October, readers likely will notice that — as in past years — the Tribune Chronicle logo has gone “pink” today in honor of breast cancer awareness month.

We also have devoted the main story on our front page today — along with a six-page special section inside — to covering facts and statistics about this devastating disease that will affect 252,710 U.S. women this year. Stories today also will focus on the amazing emotional and physical strength exhibited by area survivors. Did you know there are more than 6 million breast cancer survivors around the world today?

Today’s coverage also kicks off a month in which Tribune Chronicle Features Editor Burton Cole has focused coverage for each Tuesday’s Health Page on breast cancer topics. I believe that most readers would recognize and agree that breast cancer deserves the coverage that it will receive today, throughout the month of October and, really, year-round.

But what many readers may disagree about is the value and importance of coverage of another extremely urgent health issue facing us today. That is the growing heroin and opioid epidemic.

Today, the Tribune Chronicle also kicks off very unique team coverage of this growing problem that has reached depths no one could have predicted.

Who would have ever thought that in the first 22 days of last month, 145 Trumbull County residents would have accidentally overdosed on opioid drugs. In just one week, at least five people died from suspected drug overdoses. In Trumbull County, opioid deaths grew at a rate that now ranks it the seventh-worst county in one of the four worst states in the country.

More than 700 people have died from opioid overdoses in Trumbull and Mahoning counties since 2010.

Let’s face it, whether or not you believe this problem is a “disease” or just “stupidity” (and I’ve heard it called both), it is raging out of control. It is eating up our health care resources, the time and attention of all of our first responders, millions of dollars in government funding, and that’s not even mentioning the impact and devastation it is having on families.

The Tribune Chronicle, like all news media, has been covering this problem for years now, and what we are seeing is scaring us. It’s not showing any signs of slowing and instead is ramping up.

That’s why we, along with many other news organizations around the state of Ohio, have begun pooling our resources in an attempt to work together on reporting facts, statistics, trends and, hopefully, contribute to finding solutions.

Here in the Warren-Youngstown region, the media collaborative, being referred to as “Your Voice Mahoning Valley” includes people we often go head-to-head with in the spirit of competition — that is the Vindicator in Youngstown and WFMJ-TV. Also joining us is WKSU National Public Radio at Kent State University. Funding and organizational leadership comes from the Jefferson Center, a non-partisan public engagement organization in St. Paul, Minn.

This is the first time that the Tribune Chronicle has ever worked so closely and so in-depth with our competition. We are doing it because we know this crisis warrants it. As part of it, we will be launching “community conversations” in which we are welcoming people affected by opioids to come together to discuss how we’ve gotten here and what ideas exist for possible solutions.

There is a button on the Tribune Chronicle website, www.tribtoday.com, that will allow you to sign up to participate. We know we need all the ideas and all the help that we can get.

Remember, we live in these communities, too. We want to be a part of not just reporting on the problem, but helping to find a solution.

COMMENTS