Accidental overdose deaths spiked more than 30 percent in Clark County last year according to a final annual report released by the Ohio Department of Health.
There were 96 deaths in Clark County in 2017, up from 73 deaths in 2016 and 71 in 2015, according to the latest figures available. Clark County’s age-adjusted rate of 81.1 per 100,000 residents was the third-highest rate in Ohio, state officials said. Montgomery County’s overdose death rate led the rest of the state at 106.7 people per 100,000 population.
Figures released by the state Thursday were slightly lower than information collected by the Clark County Combined Health District, which reported there were 106 overdose deaths last year. The county reported there were 83 deaths in 2016 and 70 in 2015.
About three fourths of those who died of overdoses in Clark County last year were men, while about 25 percent were women, according to information from the CCCHD.
The state report showed there were 17 deaths in Champaign County in 2017, up from 10 one year earlier.
Statewide, there were 4,854 accidental drug overdose deaths last year, an increase of about 800 from 2016.
One bright spot is the number of deaths related to opioid use is on pace to end lower than 2017, said Charles Patterson, commissioner of the CCCHD.
The figure available at the end of July this year was 28 deaths, said Greta Mayer, CEO of the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Clark, Greene and Madison Counties.
“While we may be seeing a slight decline recently it’s still way too high,” Mayer said of the latest figures. One reason last year’s numbers may have spiked, she said, is the strengths of the drugs available appears to have increased, she said.
Officials within the CCCHD host meetings to review the latest figures every other month, said Emma Smales, a spokeswoman for the health district. She said the district also works closely with and provides support to the Clark County Substance Abuse Coalition, which is working to reduce the number of fatalities.
“We support their work and their strategies,” Smales said.
Local agencies have tried to address gaps in care, particularly after noticing that many of those who have overdosed in Clark County had never been in treatment services, Mayer said. One of the challenges has been how to prevent people from getting so deep into addiction.
“You have this huge group going unserved,” Mayer said.
One way local agencies have tried to address the issue dispatching teams made up of individuals from several agencies to encourage treatment when residents overdose at the Springfield Regional Medical Center.
The McKinley Hall treatment center also used a federal grant to open a first-of-its-kind safehouse providing addicts with a safe place to go before receiving treatment. Agencies have also hosted events like recovery banquets to provide more support and to celebrate with addicts who have made progress in their recovery to show signs of hope, Mayer said. Despite some progress, she said the county has a long way to go.
“We need to do more,” Mayer said. “There’s more that needs to happen.”
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