PDT Staff Writer
At a funeral directors conference on Friday hosted by Scioto County Coroner Dr. Darren Adams, the 2012 drug death statistics in Scioto County were revealed. According to the data, there were 15 direct drug deaths in 2012, down from 21 in 2011, the lowest since 2004. Drug related deaths rose in 2012 to 13, up from 11 in 2011.
Adams explained that 14 out of the 15 direct drug deaths were the result of multiple drugs being found in the deceased person’s system. Only one was from a single agent, Oxymorphone or Opana. Oxymorphone was found in six of the 15 deaths, followed by oxycodone found in five of the 15 deaths. Heroin was found in four out of the 15 deaths.
During the conference Adams gave some of the credit to former Scioto County Coroner and current State Representative Dr. Terry Johnson and House Bill (H.B.) 93.
“I applaud the efforts of all those involved in reducing the drug related deaths in our county, but it will take a concentrated effort of all the people in our county to continue the decreasing trend in drug deaths,” Adams said in a released statement.
Johnson called House Bill 93 a key piece leading to the reduction, but stressed this kind of change starts with a grassroots community movement.
“Everybody was involved with that (grassroots community effort) from clergy, teachers to the health departments. I stood on the shoulders of the community when I authored that legislation (House Bill 93). The data shows this (H.B. 93) is paying off and it makes sense. It’s very important for us to keep an eye on what’s really important here, continuing the work and making sure we keep the members of our public as safe as possible.”
According to the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, Scioto County was the leader in the state in prescription opioid deaths in 2011 with 25 deaths compared to 22 the year before.
Officials cited that in 2011 House Bill (H.B.) 93 was signed into law regulating pain clinics throughout Ohio calling it a first and critical step.
Throughout the state the percent of increase in deaths tied to opioid drug overdoses in 2011 was cut in half from 2010.
“We are encouraged that the rate of increase is going down but the number is still unacceptably high,” said Orman Hall, ODADAS Director in a released statement. “As pill mills become increasingly scarce, we will see a shift to heroin and other non-prescription drugs so our interventions must be comprehensive and well supported as we move forward.”
Ed Hughes, Director of Compass Community Health said the new numbers represent a significant decrease.
“We finally may have seen the culmination of a lot of work that’s been going on over the last five or six years,” Hughes said.
He credited the work done by the Scioto County Drug Action Team and the creation of the Second Chance Center as having a positive impact on the community.
“I was very encouraged to find out we finally had a very big data indicator that shows the things that we’ve been doing are now working,” Hughes said.
Lisa Roberts, public nurse with the Portsmouth Health Department said this is another indication the work that was done by the community has paid off.
“Three years ago we were having double this amount of deaths that were prescription related. What I can tell by these numbers is that we did make a great big difference and that heroin has not been as deadly as the pain pills,” Roberts said. “Our work is definitely not finished, I would like to see that number down to zero. We still have a lot of work to do and I would just about bet we’re one of the few counties that has seen a reduction.”
She said the problem of prescription overdose deaths is running wild in other parts of the state currently.
Roberts credited some of the success to Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided with Naloxone) which was recently credited with saving its 14th life locally.
According to the Federal Drug Administration, Naloxone is a synthetic drug similar to morphine that blocks opiate receptors in the nervous system. Participants of Project DAWN are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of overdose and able to distinguish between types of overdoes. Participants also learn how to properly administer Naloxone.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Wayne on Twitter @WayneallenPDT.