COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN/AP) – According to a new study, the number of overdose deaths related to heroin has nearly doubled in Ohio within the last year.
State officials say accidental drug overdoses killed a record 3,050 people in Ohio last year, or an average of eight per day.
Over one-third of those were linked to the powerful painkiller fentanyl. A report released Thursday shows fentanyl-related deaths more than doubled from 2014, pushing the overdose toll to a record.
In Trumbull County, 25 fentanyl-related overdose deaths were reported. There were 89 drug overdose deaths in the county last year, compared to 54 in 2014 and 37 in 2013.
In Mahoning County, there were 60 drug overdose deaths in 2015 and in Columbiana County, there were 30.
According to Columbiana Police Chief Tim Gladis, it’s a crippling epidemic across the Valley that no city is immune from.
“It’s here in Columbiana, I just don’t think there’s as much open air dealing here as in some places. We have it happening more behind closed doors in private residences than we do on the street level,” he said.
The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ medical director says Ohio’s addictions epidemic can only be dealt with through prevention, intervention, treatment and use of life-saving measures such as an overdose antidote.
According to this report, the use of the opiate reversal drug Naloxone has been vital to saving lives. That’s why Ohio has increased funding to purchase the drug for first responders through local health departments.
Governor Kasich and officials from nine others states were in Cincinnati Thursday, speaking about the heroin epidemic and the strides that are being made to combat it.
“Beyond the prescription guideline protocols, we’ve also been able to reduce the amount of doctor shopping and also the emergency shopping. I think we’ve made great progress on all that,” Kasich said.
He also presented suggestions, such as giving drug offenders treatment instead of putting them prison.
“If you divert somebody from prison and you put them in a local treatment facility where they are restrained and the public is safe…we will share some of the savings of not having to put them in prison with the local community,” Kasich said. “I think it’s a brilliant idea and I hope we will come up with a formula to help get that done.”
Though the problem continues to rise, prevention specialists are working to aid in the fight against addiction.
“We are looking to fight all addiction and not specifying it heroin or to opiates, because we know trend-wise when one of those components gets shut down, we see something new pop up,” said Angela McClellan, director of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Mahoning County.
Officials concede the problem has grown, but they have hope of making headway. They point to progress in curbing prescription opiate abuse and say they’re working to improve access to the antidote and drug treatment and recovery resources.
Last fall, Ohio requested assistance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help better understand the increase in fentanyl-related deaths.
In Pennsylvania, there were about 3,500 overdoses in 2015.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.