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Morning Headlines: Opioid Crisis Displaces Children; Conductor Dutoit Cancels Cleveland Appearances

photo of Charles Dutoit and the Philadelphia Orchestra

Here are your morning headlines for Friday, December 22:

  • Children increasingly displaced by the opioid crisis;
  • Woman charged with murder of 5-year-old son;
  • Swiss conductor Dutoit cancels Cleveland appearances amid sexual assault allegations;
  • 22 plaintiffs join Summit County suit against pharmaceutical companies;
  • Planned southeast Ohio chemical plant postponed;
  • Clevelanders hold vigil for the homeless;
  • Lawmaker calls for harsher drug trafficking penalties;
  • Cleveland-based lottery workers accused of scrap metal theft;

Children increasingly displaced by the opioid crisis
Child advocates say the opioid crisis is overwhelming Ohio's foster care system as more children are removed from the homes of drug-addicted parents. The Public Children Services Association of Ohio says more than 15,500 children are now in foster care, up from about 12,600 four years ago. The agency released a report on Thursday finding that Ohio is on track to place more than 20,000 children in foster care by 2020. The agency's executive director says more state funding is needed to address the crisis despite increases lawmakers provided this year.

Woman charged with murder of 5-year-old son
A Cleveland woman has been charged with murder in the death of her 5-year-old son after telling authorities where they could find his body buried in her backyard. Larissa Rodriguez was charged Thursday although the medical examiner has not yet identified the remains found Tuesday. Four other children were removed from squalid conditions and placed in foster care. Rodriguez, a 34-year-old mother of nine children, told officers on Monday that her son was in Texas with his father.

Swiss conductor Dutoit cancels Cleveland appearances amid sexual misconduct allegations
The Cleveland Orchestra says conductor Charles Dutoit will no longer lead the orchestra in scheduled February performances. Dutoit is the latest classical musician to face allegations of sexual misconduct. He canceled his appearance with the orchestra following allegations reported by the Associated Press. So far, five orchestras have canceled appearances by the Swiss conductor. In a statement, the orchestra says it is not aware of specific complaints from its musicians against Dutoit. A replacement conductor for the February concerts has not been announced.

22 plaintiffs join Summit County suit against pharmaceutical companies
Twenty-two towns, cities, and public agencies in Summit County are joining a lawsuit against opioid makers and distributors. Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, Barberton, and the county health department are among the nearly two dozen plaintiffs teaming together in the suit. In a press conference Thursday, County Executive Eileen Shapiro said opioid addiction added $2.6 million per year to county children’s services, as part of $66 million in related costs and an estimated $150 million more over the next decade in dealing with the crisis. Shapiro did not name an amount for damages requested in the suit. . A lawyer for a Washington, D.C.-based firm hired by the county says lawsuits filed by other states have faced long delays in similar litigation.

Planned southeast Ohio chemical plant postponed
A massive chemical plant planned for southeast Ohio is again on hold. PTT Global Chemical of Thailand earlier this year said it would announce plans for the multi-billion dollar ethane cracker plant late in 2017. That announcement has been moved to early 2018. The plant, if it’s built, would be the largest economic development project in the state. Shell Chemical earlier this year broke ground near Pittsburgh on a similar ethane cracker that makes plastic from shale gases. The state of Ohio has already paid the company $14 million in incentives to build the plant in Belmont County.

Clevelanders hold vigil for the homeless
A remembrance was held in Cleveland yesterday for the homeless people who died this year. The Annual Homeless Memorial Day was held at the West Side Catholic Center. The Plain Dealer reports 61 people who were affected by homelessness died this year in the Cleveland area. Two homeless people were found dead in Cleveland last week. Last year, the vigil honored 103 homeless people who died.

Lawmaker calls for harsher drug trafficking penalties
Ohio lawmakers have increased spending to fight the opioid crisis, but one state legislator thinks more needs to be done. Republican Rep. Scott Wiggam of Wooster has introduced legislation that would increase penalties for trafficking drugs and could mean some people will face mandatory prison terms. But marijuana is excluded from the bill. The legislation is backed by the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police as well as other law enforcement officials and county prosecutors.

Cleveland-based lottery workers accused of scrap metal theft
A group of lottery workers has been indicted on theft charges. Three Cleveland-based Ohio Lottery Commission workers are accused of selling scrap metal from state junkyards and taking the profits from the sales. Cleveland.com reports the three men allegedly stole about $3,000 over three years. The indictments come after a months-long investigation. Other employees at the commission’s downtown warehouse say they saw the men loading the scrap metal into their cars and splitting cash later on.

Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.