Clark County has once again seen a rash of drug overdoses, prompting alerts from the Ohio Department of Health.
The Springfield Regional Medical Center treated at least 40 overdose patients at its emergency department between April 3 and today, including 12 on Tuesday and 13 on Thursday, according to data from the hospital.
Health leaders suspect a stronger, different batch of illicit fentanyl has reached the streets, Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said.
“The best message at this point is for people to watch their loved ones very closely,” Patterson said.
The number doesn’t include overdose patients who received Narcan from medics but refused to go to the hospital.
The emergency department typically sees about four overdoses per day. As of Wednesday morning, Springfield Regional Medical Center had treated 12 overdoses in the past 12 hours, more than three times over the threshold limit — prompting the Ohio Department of Health to alert local health officials, Patterson said.
The Clark County Combined Health District has reached out to other communities with similar drug issues to talk about what can be done immediately to end the increase in overdoses, Patterson said.
“Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of great, clear answers to stop what we’re seeing in this three-day anomaly,” Patterson said. “We’re just not coming up with how to do stop this today. That’s an answer that’s escaping us.”
As of Sunday, the Springfield Fire/Rescue Division had treated 27 patients for overdoses, including 19 who received Narcan, Chief Nick Heimlich said. The drugs are cheaper and the supply is different than what people are using, he said.
“One week it might be a stronger batch and the next week it might not,” Heimlich said.
On Wednesday, community leaders met to discuss what it can do to fill in the treatment gaps to reduce opioid addiction in the community.
The county saw similar overdose spikes in January, including 50 in one weekend, but it’s unclear if this is a trend or a simply an anomaly, Patterson said.
“There are no models that tell us what comes next,” Patterson said.
The Clark County Coroner’s Office hasn’t investigated any suspected drug deaths over the past three days, Coroner Dr. Richard Marsh.
“It seems to be holding off this time,” Marsh said.
The majority of the 79 drug deaths in Clark County last year involved heroin and illicit fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin. There have been 42 unconfirmed drug deaths in Clark County this year.
About half of the people who died of drug overdoses last year were between the ages of 45 and 64, records show. Nearly 89 percent of the people who died were white.
Nearly 500 people have died of drug overdoses in Clark County since 1998, according to coroner’s office records. More than half of those people — 265 — have died in the past five years, the result of the opioid epidemic.
As of Wednesday, the Springfield Police Division has responded to 317 overdose calls, according to statistics from the Clark County Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Support Coalition.
In 2015, more than 1,155 Ohioans died of fentanyl-related drug overdoses. At the same time, more than 19,000 doses of Narcan were administered statewide to reverse the effects of opioids. It typically takes more than one dose to revive a patient from an overdose.
About $1 million over the past two years has been spent to make sure each Ohio county has access to Narcan kits, said Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services spokesman Eric Wandersleben. Those kits have led to more than 2,200 lives saved, he said.
SPRINGFIELD’S OPIOID WAR
By the numbers
40: Drug overdose-related cases at the Springfield Regional Medical Center between April 3 and 7.
50: Drug overdose-related cases at the Springfield Regional Medical Center in January.
42: Suspected drug deaths this year in Clark County.
79: The number of drug deaths in Clark County last year.
73: The number of drug deaths in Clark County in 2015.
About this series: Springfield’s Opioid War
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about opioid and heroin problems in Clark County in the past five years, including stories about multiple overdoses in one weekend and efforts to expand treatment options. This year, the News-Sun will take a deep dive into the community’s opioid epidemic and what local officials are doing to solve the problem.