- By Parker Perry Staff Writer
Clark County set a new record while ranking third in the state for drug deaths in 2017 by the Ohio Department of Health, according to preliminary data from the state agency when adjusted for age.
The health department found 96 Clark County residents died of an unintentional drug-related overdose in 2017. When adjusted for age, the department gave Clark County a score of 81. Only Montgomery County and Fayette County scored higher.
“We had the highest total number of deaths in county history,” Clark County Coroner Richard Marsh said. “And it was due to the opioid epidemic. At one point, almost half of our deaths … were drug deaths.”
Clark County ranked in the top 10 of all counties in total number of residents dying from a drug overdose, the state numbers show. Marsh said his office recorded 104 drug overdose deaths in the county in 2017, which indicates multiple non-residents died of overdoses in the county.
Men were more likely to die by drug overdose than women in 2017, the statistics from the Clark County Combined Health District show.
“The most common age group among individuals who died of a drug overdose in 2017 was 35-44 years, accounting for 27 percent of all overdose deaths,” said Anna Jean Petroff, Clark County Combined Health District epidemiologist. “The next most common age group was 45-54 years, at 24 percent.”
Numbers provided by the coroner’s office show 2017 was a troubling year for the county compared to previous years. In 2014, there were 37 drug overdose deaths in the county. In 2014 there were 73. And in 2016 there were 79.
“The first part of the year was the worst,” Marsh said of 2017. “But it continued throughout the year. We had really increased our workload. Everyone was increased. EMS, hospital, everybody was just seeing an enormous increase.”
Marsh said it was obvious the death rates were high, but Clark County being ranked in the top three is surprising.
“You like to know if there is something different in all the counties … why are we different from another county?” Marsh said. “I’m not sure if I have a good reason for that, why we are so high.”
He said understanding what other counties are doing around the state to keep their numbers lower could help leaders here.
So far in 2018, the Clark County Coroner’s Office has confirmed 25 drug overdose deaths. That number is smaller than previous years, but there is still drug problem in Clark County, said Carey McKee, Springfield Clark County Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Coalition coordinator.
“We don’t think it’s getting better,” she said. “We are still having overdoes deaths and any death is not good. Our goal is to prevent any substance abuse death.”
She believes Narcan is saving lives, but it is important for anyone who is on drugs to seek professional help, she said.