County common pleas judge to hold heroin forum in Bay

Judge Michael Astrab, who will host a series about heroin Feb. 20 in Bay Village, holds up a bottle of prescription pain medicine at a recent City Club forum. The over-prescribing of pain killers often leads to addiction, which too often leads an addict to heroin. Photo courtesy of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Michael Astrab has seen too many heroin cases in his courtroom. “Make no mistake, it’s an epidemic,” Astrab said. “I can do what I can as a judge from the bench, but by the time a user gets to my courtroom, it’s often too late. As a community, we need to do more to prevent people from using heroin in the first place.”

Throughout this school year, Astrab is hosting a series of “Heroin in the Suburbs” forums. A town hall for Bay Village and surrounding communities will take place on Thursday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m. at the Bay Village Branch Library, 502 Cahoon Road.

Astrab’s goal is to help raise awareness of the heroin epidemic, and inform parents how to keep their families safe.

“This is an epidemic," Astrab said. "For anyone to suggest otherwise is naive.”

According to the medical examiner, heroin killed approximately 200 people in Cuyahoga County in 2013. The majority of those deaths were in the suburbs. Heroin took more lives in 2013 than homicides or car accidents.

Scheduled expert panelists for the town hall forum include defense attorney Jim Jenkins, Dr. Joan Papp from Project DAWN, Robert Brandt from “Robby’s Voice,” Cuyahoga County Opiate Task Force chair Vince Caraffi, and Dr. Stephen Sroka.

“Everyone involved in these forums has one goal – prevent at least one person from being hurt by heroin,” Astrab said. “If we can do that, this effort will absolutely be worth it.”

All Bay Village residents – especially parents and students – are encouraged to attend.

Astrab has held previous forums in Solon, Westlake, Broadview Heights, Parma, Strongsville and the City Club of Cleveland. Future forums will take place in Beachwood, North Olmsted, Mayfield, Independence, Garfield Heights, St. Edward High School, Maple Heights and Brooklyn.

At a recent forum, Dr. Sroka said everyone has the power to make a difference. “Denial is huge. You can’t say ‘It’s not in my community’ anymore.  You should be prepared. There’s not a person here this can’t happen to.”

For more information, follow Judge Astrab on Twitter @judgeastrab. To RSVP to attend the forum on Facebook, search for “Bay Village: Heroin in the Suburbs.”

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Volume 6, Issue 4, Posted 9:18 AM, 02.18.2014