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'There's just no excuse for losing a whole generation of people': Mothers, first responders stress dangers of deadly opioid epidemic in Northeast Ohio

The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner is sounding the alarm after 12 people died of drug overdoses in 48 hours.

CLEVELAND — The opioid epidemic is rocking the nation and Cuyahoga County’s Medical Examiner is sounding the public safety alarm after least a dozen died from drug overdoses in just 48 hours.

“I never, ever would've thought that I would've been here, like, two years ago talking about my son overdosing,” Rosemary Pratt said.

In May of 2020, on Memorial Day weekend, Ricky Pratt, 28, was getting ready to set off on a camping trip.

“The next day, my husband went there just to check on him because we had not heard from him. My husband had found him,” Pratt said.

Ricky's cause of death was drug overdose. Pratt’s story resonates with Linda Zeller.

“Murray died not even four years ago,” Zeller said. “It was New Year’s Eve.”

Zeller, a nurse, said Murray Petkovsek, 25, shared messages of Happy New Year on the phone with her while at work. That would be the last time she heard his voice.

“I came home from work around 7 to find him face down on the floor,” Zeller said. “I had to call 911. There was nothing they could do. He'd been gone for too long.”

Parma firefighter and paramedic T.J. Martin responds to calls of overdose.

“Pre-pandemic, into the pandemic, it's got quite a big uptick,” Martin said.

Across Cuyahoga County, the alarms are blaring with a public health emergency.

Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Gilson announced Monday that twelve people had died of drug overdose in 48 hours.

“This recent trend of clustered overdoses is alarming... it remains to be seen what the cause is, but the public should be aware that there is a serious threat to their lives if they are using street drugs right now in Cuyahoga County," Dr. Gilson said in a statement.

Being on the streets, paramedics like Martin believe the infiltrating drug fentanyl is playing a factor in the overdoses.

“We believe it's because of the mix of the fentanyl,” Martin said. “When you get even just a grain of fentanyl, it changes the whole chemical make-up of the heroin.”

Murray and Ricky's mothers can only speak of what could have gone differently or what could have saved their son. It’s the message they send to the public every day.

“I still miss him every day. Still think of him every day,” Pratt said.

“We can’t do enough. There's just no excuse for losing a whole generation of people,” Zeller said.

Martin said he's seen kids as young at ten overdose on drugs, and couldn't stress enough the importance of not only education about drugs but, that parents also know where your kids are and what they're doing.

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