More than 13 percent of all Ohio drug overdoses treated in emergency rooms through June of this year were in Montgomery County hospitals, according to state health statistics revealed by the county’s Community Overdose Action Team.
As the region’s opioid crisis intensified through the first half of this year, Montgomery County hospital emergency departments received 2,565 overdose patients — more than any other Ohio county. In all, Ohio emergency departments treated 19,128 overdoses during the period, including 2,204 in Cuyahoga County, the state’s most populous.
“It is a public health problem. It is a public safety problem. It is a community problem,” said Montgomery County Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper on Thursday afternoon at the first of new monthly meetings to update the community on the team assembled to stabilize and bring down the number of opioid overdoses.
Deaths from accidental overdoses in Montgomery County rose so fast earlier this year that by June deaths exceeded the 349 of 2016 and health officials were bracing for up to 800 dead.
But since May, when 80 people died, the preliminary number of overdose deaths has fallen month over month: 52 in June, 40 in July and 38 in August, for a total of 464.
“We all hope for that pattern to continue because that means fewer people are losing loved ones to this problem,” Cooper said. “But let’s be clear, we are nowhere near achieving our goal.”
Recently-released Ohio Department of Health data also show Montgomery County had the highest overdose death rate in the state – 42.5 per 100,000 people.
Formed about a year ago to confront the crisis, the group has made progress, said Jodi Long, director of Treatment and Supportive Services for the Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services board.
Long said treatment capacity has increased in the county and drug users now have 24/7 access to ambulatory detox. The Montgomery County Jail has added a behavioral liaison and the treatment assessment process for inmates with addiction has been streamlined. Also, officers at 20 of the county’s 30 law enforcement agencies are now armed with the overdose reversal drug, she said.
“People have heard the message that carrying naloxone saves lives,” Long said.
Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley said the county’s law enforcement officers and medics are doing a yeoman’s job both trying to bring down dealers and revive those nearly dead from drugs.
“These officers and EMS personnel are literally putting their lives at risk every day to try to make things better,” he said.