Local officials vigilant as overdose death spike seen in Southwest Ohio

A recent spike in overdose deaths in Cincinnati from drugs laced in fentanyl has health officials and law enforcement here concerned about a similar outcome.

It’s not uncommon for a “bad batch” of drugs to hit multiple regions because the people who sell drugs often use the interstates for travel, said Sydney Sauer of the SOAR Initiative.

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A warning late last week was sent by Hamilton County officials that said they were seeing a spike in overdoses in the Greater Cincinnati area..

There were 16 preliminary overdose deaths between Sept. 30 and Oct. 5, Hamilton County Public Health said. Fentanyl may be in the drug supply, officials said, and they saw multiple deaths of people using drugs other than opioids. There were also 19 overdose emergency department visits between Oct. 4 and Oct. 5 in Hamilton County.

Montgomery County officials said they have not seen a similar overdose spike.

“Montgomery County continues to be vigilant with our prevention and harm reduction efforts here,” Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County spokesperson Dan Suffoletto said.

Clark County Combined Health District Commissioner Charles Patterson said the county has not seen a recent overdose spike. He said it is known that drugs can travel up interstate 75 and 70 and make their way to the Springfield area and other parts of the state.

SOAR (Safety, Outreach, Autonomy, Respect) is a non-profit founded by Ohio State University students and utilizes harm reduction strategies to engage with people who use drugs to help prevent negative consequences associated with drug use.

It also recently expanded its text alert system to the Dayton and Springfield region, which provides overdose surge and “deadly batch” alerts regarding drugs that may be unknowingly laced with fentanyl. To sign up to receive text alerts for the area in the SOAR Initiative’s West Central Ohio region, people can text “SOAR” to (937) 744-7627.

While other areas of the country are seeing overdose deaths rise, the Dayton area has seen a decrease this year compared to last year, data shows. In Montgomery County, there have been 217 deaths due to overdoses so far this year, At this time in 2021, there were 269, data from the Montgomery County Community Overdoes Action Team shows.

“So far in 2022, Montgomery County has seen a 19.3% decrease in overdose deaths,” Suffoletto said. “This decrease can generally be attributed to consistent outreach efforts by local addiction recovery agencies and continued promotion and use of Narcan in the community.”

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State data provided by Harm Reduction Ohio President Dennis Cauchon shows that overdoses are down 33% in Warren County and almost 22% in Greene County.

There have been 36 confirmed overdose deaths in Clark County so far this year. Last year, the Clark County Coroner confirmed 79 deaths throughout the entire year.

“(Overdoses) seem to be down, but not enough,” said Trish Williams-Chase, the site director for Families of Addicts in Springfield. “One death is too many,” she said.

She belongs to a group in Springfield working to make a difference by passing out educational material and NARCAN to areas that see high rates of overdoses. It’s important to remember that each death represents a lost life and a family that’s grieving, she said.

Williams-Chase lost her son to an overdose three years ago. The impact of addiction can be devastating for a family, she said.

“It is extremely, extremely hard on families, especially when they don’t know that there’s someplace that they can come and realize that they are not alone,” Williams-Chase said. “A lot of people are not aware that there are other families, and they think they’re the only one.”

She said she doesn’t want a family to have to walk alone in the struggle of addiction and they should consider reaching out to FOA to receive support.

Staff reporter Samantha Wildow contributed to this report

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