Accidental drug overdose deaths drop 8.9%, but New Year surge has health groups warning public

Despite drop, health officials concerned about surge in overdoses over New Year holiday.

Accidental drug overdose deaths in Montgomery County decreased by 8.9% in 2022 compared to the previous year, preliminary data shows, but a recent surge of overdoses around the New Year has health officials concerned.

There were 11 overdoses reported from area hospitals on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, according to Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County. The spike in overdoses has area community agencies emphasizing the importance of individuals accessing available resources, like Narcan.

This is the second overdose surge alert that the Community Overdose Action Team has released since they started the system in June.

There were approximately 307 accidental drug overdose deaths in 2022, according to Montgomery County Coroner’s Office. This is down by almost 9% from 2021, when there were 337 confirmed overdose deaths.

Helen Jones-Kelley, executive director of the Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services, said the 307 accidental drug overdose deaths was far from what the county experienced in 2017, which saw 566 accidental drug overdose deaths.

“This past year is a decrease is even from last year, so it didn’t go down as far as we would like it to go ... but the continuing decrease is really a sign of how people are indeed becoming more aware and using different types of tools and strategies to avoid overdoses,” Jones-Kelley said.

Access to Narcan

Health officials emphasized the importance of having Narcan, which is becoming more widely available. Narcan Nasal Spray is a prescription product, but every state has access laws or alternate arrangements in place that allow persons to obtain naloxone from a pharmacist without an individualized, in-person prescription, according to Emergent Devices Inc., which distributes Narcan.

“Having the ability to carry Narcan can honestly save someone’s life,” Jones-Kelley said.

Health officials warn illegal drugs can be unknowingly laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is commonly mixed with drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine and made into pills to look like prescription opioids or other drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control, leading to potential overdoses if someone consumes illicit drugs.

“Fentanyl continues to be a problem and continues to be found in the drug supply,” said Dan Suffoletto, public information manager for Public Health. There is also a concern for individuals who may be returning to drug use after not having used drugs for a long time and not understanding how much more deadly some drugs are now, he said.

Having Narcan on hand can help a wide variety of individuals, Jones-Kelley said, including individuals with legal opioids who may misuse drugs by accident.

“Because a lot of people have prescriptions for opioids for pain or other uses, there are a lot of people who could easily fall into a category of an overdose without having any expectation for that,” said Jones-Kelley. “It’s not just about the illegal drugs. It’s sometimes about the misuse of drugs.”

Jones-Kelley used the example of someone who may have memory issues who may consume too much of a prescription medication by accident.

Individuals can call 937-734-9468 to get a Narcan kit today, or they can check with a major pharmacy chain. All major pharmacy chains offer Narcan Nasal Spray, though pharmacists may keep it behind the counter. Individuals can also visit Harm Reduction Ohio’s website to order Narcan online. Visit for more information.

The Community Overdose Action Team has also re-introduced a program that allows Montgomery County businesses to request a free NaloxBox to be placed at an office or business location. The NaloxBox contains the Narcan and is similar to a mounted Automated External Defibrillator (AED), making this Narcan accessible to anyone in the event of an opioid drug overdose.

To obtain Narcan for your business, contact Dawn Schwartz, Community Overdose Action Team project manager, Public Health – Dayton and Montgomery County at (937) 225-6026. More information about the NaloxBox may be found here:

Harm reduction, like the availability of Narcan, may still be controversial, but Jones-Kelley said they working to decrease judgement.

“We’re trying to decrease judgement ... and trying to increase the awareness in the sense of helping a fellow citizen who may be in distress at some point,” Jones-Kelley said.

FOA launches warmline

Families of Addicts (FOA) also launched their own warmline for families and individuals to call when they need help. The FOA link is 567-362-5465.

“We supply support for the whole family,” said Anita Kitchen, executive director of FOA. “We supply a number of different resources on this line.”

Kitchen said they have listened to families in need who need an outlet to talk if they are unsure of where to turn, as well as supplied information on recovery resources, power of attorney information, what insurances treatment centers take, and more.

“It’s a wonderful service,” Kitchen said. FOA is also looking into assisting families in kinship situations, such as if a child needs to be placed with a family member if the parents are unable to care for a child due to a substance use disorder, and the new caregivers have an immediate financial need.

“That’s a new program that we’re looking to launch,” Kitchen said. For more information, visit

FOA will also be commemorating its 10th anniversary this year, holding its annual rally on Aug. 27 at Courthouse Square, where they will have over 60 resources available.

Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services also offers a hotline for local residents to call to find help for mental health and substance use, which has just finished its first year with over 11,000 calls. Crisis Now will answer calls to a newly created hotline phone number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 833-580-CALL or 833-580-2255.

“We have had such a wonderful success,” Jones-Kelley said.

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