Dayton police officers — who at one point this year were sent to up to 50 overdoses a week — had two days this week without overdose calls, an occurrence Maj. Brian Johns couldn’t recall in battling a four-year-long opioid crisis.
“So far it’s a good week,” Johns said Thursday. “There’s still a lot of work to come. But definitely it’s a nice break from the death.”
Johns said he first thought the zero on Monday’s report might be a computer glitch, but as the week progressed — just two overdose calls on Tuesday and none again on Wednesday — the numbers proved accurate.
“I haven’t seen this in several years, going from 50-something, down to 20 something a week to so far where we’re looking at 2,” he said.
Barbara Marsh, assistant health commissioner, Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County, said it’s premature to declare a reversal in course of drug overdoses that took 349 lives last year and so far this year 484.
“While it’s still too early to call this a trend, we are encouraged that we are beginning to see a decrease in overdoses,” she said.
Since May, when 80 people died, the preliminary number of overdose deaths has fallen: 52 in June, 40 in July, 41 in August and 17 this month as of Thursday.
There has yet to be a day without an overdose somewhere else in the county besides Dayton, but the calls have not been as frequent, said Bruce Langos, chairman of the Montgomery County Drug Free Coalition and director of the Montgomery County Criminal Intelligence Center.
“We’ve seen the overdose rate in the last 10 to 15 days drop probably roughly in half compared to where we were,” Langos said. “So maybe we’re all doing something right.”
As the region’s opioid crisis intensified during the first half of this year, Montgomery County hospital emergency departments received 2,565 overdose patients — more than any other Ohio county, including Cuyahoga County, the state’s most populous.
Overdose emergency calls in the county averaged 363 a month through the first eight months of the year. During the first 11 days of this month, 71 overdoses were reported to the Criminal Intelligence Center.
Law enforcement and health officials aren’t exactly sure why the overdoses are declining, but say a number of local efforts — including a community-wide collaborative response to the crisis — may be moving the needle.
More treatment options available to those battling opioids is playing a role, said Jodi Long, director of treatment and supportive services at the Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services board.
Long said the number of residential detox beds in the community went from eight to 14 in little more than a year as more providers started offering medication assisted treatment. Out-patient detox is also now offered 24/7 through Samaritan Behavioral Health, she said.
“Increased access to treatment is encouraging people to seek treatment so they are not at risk of overdose,” Long said. “Certainly intervention by law enforcement and removing the substances from the street has a direct impact
Johns said authorities have had some success dislodging dealers and disrupting the supply of an extremely potent opioid.
“If you look over the last months, all our law enforcement — from the city, the county, DEA and the FBI — we try to focus on those people who are selling fentanyl, because that’s what was killing people.”