Montgomery County coroner projects drop in fatal ODs for 2018

Montgomery County Coroner Kent Harshbarger, pictured Oct. 24, 2018, said drug overdose deaths are down to the levels the area saw in 2014 and 2015, but just in the last month powerful fentanyl analogues have begun to take lives again. In 2017 the county recorded 566 overdose deaths mostly due to fentanyl and its analogues. CHUCK HAMLIN / STAFF

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Montgomery County Coroner Kent Harshbarger, pictured Oct. 24, 2018, said drug overdose deaths are down to the levels the area saw in 2014 and 2015, but just in the last month powerful fentanyl analogues have begun to take lives again. In 2017 the county recorded 566 overdose deaths mostly due to fentanyl and its analogues. CHUCK HAMLIN / STAFF

The Montgomery County coroner is projecting that fatal ODs in the county will fall short of 300 for the first time since 2015.

"I didn't think was going to happen," the coroner, Dr. Kent Harshbarger, told WHIO-TV's James Buechele on Wednesday night. "I thought we would trend back up and it has not happened until recently."

As of Oct. 18, there have been 222 fatal ODs in Montgomery County (111 in Dayton), according to Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County.

And that number may change, Harshbarger said, as final causes of death are determined.

While the number of fatal ODs has declined, meth and cocaine use has increased at the same time, according to the coroner's office.

"There's many more treatment options," Harshbarger said. "There's much more information, there's support out there in the community."

He said the county wasn't ready to deal with the number of fatalities connected to opioids in 2017,

"From November, December of 2016 through May of 2017, the numbers were unheard of anywhere in the country," he said.

In 2017, 566 in Montgomery County died of ODs. The fatal tally was nearly 350 the year before, according to the coroner's office.

"We weren't prepared to handle that," Harshbarger said.

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