Coronavirus: Overdose deaths up 30% in Montgomery County

Overdoses in Montgomery County are on track to take dozens of more lives this year than in each of the previous two years, a stark reversal of a downward trend that began in mid-2017 at the height of the local opioid epidemic and a shift health experts say is partially attributable to the coronavirus pandemic.

Through July of this year, 201 people died from suspected overdoses in the county, up 30% from 154 deaths reported last year during the same period, according to the Montgomery County Coroner.

Drug overdose deaths have risen steadily through the pandemic, said Barbara Marsh, who as Montgomery County’s assistant health commissioner also helps lead the Community Overdose Action Team.

“Part of that we think is due to the COVID-19,” she said. “People are just more isolated right now … and become more vulnerable during this pandemic.”

Overdoses continued to rise statewide last year but had leveled off in Montgomery County the past two years after peaking in 2017 when 566 people died. While overdose deaths were already on the increase this year — up 22% in January and February — they rose 33% since March when compared to last year.

During 2019, suspected overdoses took an estimated 4,100 lives in Ohio, including 285 in Montgomery County, according to state and local records.

Marsh said social distancing and coronavirus shutdowns make it more difficult for someone to get assistance — and sometimes immediate help.

“Individuals are not around other people when they’re using as often,” she said. “So someone who they would typically have available to be able to give them Narcan may not be there during the time of use, and the person ends up overdosing.”

Support and recovery groups have also put in-person meetings on hold, making it harder for someone to stay clean and sober, Marsh said.

“We have seen individuals who were in recovery doing very well and have relapsed during the, during the stay at home orders and due to COVID-19,” she said.

The OneFifteen Outpatient Clinic in partnership with Samaritan Behavioral Health opened last fall in Dayton, anticipated treating 1,000 patients with substance use disorder during the first 12 months. Nearly 1,400 patients have sought treatment there during just the first nine months of operation, said Marti Taylor, OneFifteen president and CEO.

“It was apparent early on that the need in our community was even greater than we thought,” she said.

OneFifteen and Samaritan Behavioral Health opened a Crisis Stabilization Unit in February right before the pandemic arrived in Ohio.

“We found ourselves fighting an epidemic within a pandemic which created unique challenges,” Taylor said.

The unit pivoted to provide care through telehealth options that required additional training for not only the staff but patients as well. Therapists, peer support specialists and care coordinators regularly stay in touch with patients to make sure they are attending virtual group therapy sessions, Taylor said.

“We are hearing from our patients that the pandemic is creating higher levels of anxiety, grief and isolation, not to mention the fear that grows with unemployment and even reported increases in domestic violence,” she said.

OneFifteen still offers onsite and hybrid services becauses remote treatment is not the best option for all patients, said Dr. Natalie Lester, OneFifteen’s medical director.

“If covid spread increases in Montgomery County, we have the capability of converting to a more remote model of care,” Lester said. “And as contagion risk declines, we can open up more in-person services. Our plan moving forward will be to continue to offer both telehealth and in-person treatment options.”

Taylor said It’s difficult to determine how much the coronavirus pandemic weighs on overdose deaths locally, though national data show the stress, isolation, and anxiety that are related to the pandemic is fueling an increase in alcohol consumption, relapse rates and accidental overdose deaths.

An American Medical Association report updated last month shows overdose deaths were increasing in more than 35 states since the beginning of the pandemic.

Marsh said the Community Overdose Action Team, set up in 2016 to combat the opioid epidemic, has been sending out letters of hope to people who have recently experienced an overdose along with information on how to get help even during the pandemic.

“The letters of hope are really just to let individuals know that they’re not alone,” she said. “There are people out there that are willing to connect with them and willing to help.”

Montgomery County overdose deaths, 2020

Through July of this year, 201 people died from suspected overdoses in the county, up 30% from 154 deaths reported at the same point last year. During 2019, a total of 285 people died.
Butler Twp.01000001
Harrison Twp.043031213
Huber Heights01101025
Jefferson Twp.10000001
Miami Twp.21010015
New Lebanon00110002
Washington Twp.00101114
West Carrollton20100205
*Preliminary as of July 31
Source: Montgomery County Coroner

Help for substance use during pandemic

Alcoholics Anonymous

Offering online meetings

(937) 222-2211


Syringe services program provides clean syringes in exchange for used syringes, Naloxone distribution and other harm reduction materials. Services have been modified to enhance client and staff safety.

(937) 496-7133

Crisis Care

Samaritan Behavioral Health

24/7 Overdose Helpline

(937) 224-4646

Crisis text line

Free 24/7 crisis text line for any type of crisis.

Text “4HOPE” at 741741

Miami Valley Warmline

Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley

Free and confidential mental and behavioral health peer-support services.

Monday - Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

(937) 528-7777

National Alliance on Mental Illness

A self-help organization dedicated to providing support, education and advocacy to anyone affected by persistent biologically-based brain disorders or mental illnesses. Meetings are held virtually.


OneFifteen has a Crisis Stabilization Unit for those still using or experiencing active withdrawal.

Monday – Friday, 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at 707 S. Edwin C. Moses Blvd. in Dayton, North Entrance.

Unit has 24/7 Access Line to receive assessment.

(937) 535-5115

Project DAWN

Project DAWN is a community-based drug overdose education and naloxone distribution program. Naloxone can reverse the effects of an overdose. Classes are held virtually and naloxone will be sent via the mail.

(937) 734-8333

Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County

COVID-19 Call Center

(937) 225-6217

Monday to Friday

8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Recovery Alliance of Montgomery County

Recovery support RAMCO partners:

Alco-Aides – (937) 254-0067

Dayton Fellowship Club – (937) 979-1621

Dayton Recovers – (937) 620-9581

FOA Families of Addicts – (937) 307-5479

Westside Club – (937) 951-2640

Source: Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County

About the Author