One day after Kettering city and school district officials met in special session to discuss the opioid epidemic, the director of the regional crime lab confirmed the city has had more overdose deaths this year than in all of 2016.
Kettering had had 19 overdose deaths this year - one more than last year - putting the city on track to to double last year’s total, according Miami Valley Regional Crime Lab Director Ken Betz.
As of Wednesday, Montgomery County had surpassed the record 349 accidental overdose deaths reported in 2016.
Betz said the county is on pace to see more than 800 deaths in 2017.
Kettering city and school district officials talked Tuesday night about their joint efforts to provide educational resources for residents and students, as well as what community partners are doing to help fight the crisis .
“People still don’t think this is a problem in our community,” Mayor Don Patterson said. “You run into Joe Blow on the street, he doesn’t think we have a problem; he thinks that’s in Dayton.”
A 45-minute video with testimonials from community leaders like Betz, Kettering City Schools Superintendent Scott Inskeep and Patterson was shown, urging viewers to realize opioid addiction is widespread and affects suburban areas like Kettering.
Accidental overdoses are up across the board, Betz said.
“It’s tearing apart the community,” Betz said. “It’s not just the folks that die, it’s the families.”
According to Barbara Marsh, assistant to the county health commissioner, 72 percent of the county’s overdose deaths include illicit fentanyl or its cousins like carfentanil.
“We’ve also seen a decrease in heroin, so the drugs are becoming more powerful,” she said.
The number of deaths would be even higher, she said, if it weren’t for naloxone, the drug that can be administered to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
Kettering Fire Chief Tom Butts said the fire department saw an “astronomical” spike in the amount of dosages of Narcan administered.
In 2016, 103 dosages of Narcan were used to try to revive those experiencing an overdose. So far this year, over 170 dosages of Narcan have been used in the same capacity, Butts said.
After the video, council members and school board members, Kettering Police Chief Chip Protsman shared information about the epidemic in Kettering, and along with others discussed what approach should be taken to tackle the problem.
Ideas ranged from drug testing in schools, similar to new programs Carroll and Chaminade Julienne high schools announced last week, to increasing punishments for users.
Council member Bruce Duke said he doesn’t think education is the only approach that should be taken, suggesting people either enter a treatment program or face legal ramifications.
“It’s a horrible thing to say, but take these folks that are addicted and are we putting them somewhere where they are forced to receive some kind of assistance,” Duke said. “Otherwise this is just a recycling.”
In May, the body of Tiffany Argo, 28, was found in a Kettering yard after an apparent overdose, according to Kettering police. She had been arrested for multiple drug violations in the past.
Last week, Kettering police Officer John Jung said EMTs have been dispatched more than 100 times this year for overdose calls.
While no decisions were made on what more the city can do to help solve the problem, a community forum on heroin and opiate addiction was discussed, though no date was set.