The Regional Forensic Science Laboratory will be available assist collecting and analyzing crime scene evidence.

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CLEVELAND – Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald joined leading members of the Cuyahoga County Opiate Task Force, including U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach and Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams, to announce new protocols to curtail the epidemic of heroin abuse.

"It's critical that every level of government work together so we can reverse the trend of heroin abuse and improve health and public safety in local communities," said FitzGerald.

Since September 2012, FitzGerald's Cuyahoga County Heroin Initiative has coordinated countywide efforts to raise awareness regarding the toll of this epidemic through medical and law enforcement partnerships.

During Monday's press conference, Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson released preliminary findings that 38-40 heroin overdoses occurred during the first quarter of 2014. This marks the lowest fatality rate for the first quarter since 2011.

In an effort to build on these preliminary signs of success, Cuyahoga County officials and local stakeholders will work with local law enforcement officials to implement a broad-based policy approach with innovative protocols to fight heroin abuse. These include enhancements to "death specification" sentencing in federal cases and tougher charges from the county prosecutor's office in the event of a fatal heroin overdose.

In addition, the Cuyahoga County medical examiner's Regional Forensic Science Laboratory will be available to provide assistance collecting and analyzing crime scene evidence, such as packets, syringes and drug residue, in order to ensure suspected heroin dealers are brought to justice.

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