Friday, May 1, 2015
By Jordyn Grzelewski
Mahoning and Trumbull county residents died from drug overdoses at a higher rate than residents statewide between 2008 and 2013, according to new data released Thursday by the Ohio Department of Health.
The state average between 2008 and 2013 was 15 drug-overdose deaths per 100,000 residents; in Mahoning County that figure was 20.1, and in Trumbull County it was 21.8. Columbiana County had an average rate of 14.3 deaths.
“While Mahoning County has kind of stayed where we are, with 48 [drug-overdose deaths] in 2012 and 41 in 2013, it’s still way too many deaths,” said Brenda Heidinger, associate director of the county mental health and recovery board.
“We have also gone from 19th in the state in [overdose deaths in] 2012 to 14th in the state in 2013, which concerns me and leads me to believe that we really need to educate people and look at alternatives to prevent these overdose deaths,” she said. “We’re just losing too many people.”
Although ODH data for Trumbull County show a decrease in deaths — from 59 in 2011 to 36 in 2013 (the Trumbull County Coroner’s Office reports the 2013 number as 39 deaths) — the problem has since worsened, said April Caraway, executive director of the county mental health and recovery board.
“We thought we were doing better in 2012 and 2013, and now they’ve gone back up again,” she said.
The coroner’s office reports 53 overdose deaths in 2014.
The fact that Trumbull County has a higher rate than the state average is partly due to the local supply chain, Caraway said.
“We’re being told that we’re in a corridor where we receive the brown heroin from Toledo and Columbus on those direct highway lines,” she said. “It’s just so available here.”
“It’s going to take all of us to change it. Nobody can do it alone,” she said.
Statewide, 2013 again was a record year for overdose deaths, according to the ODH data.
Overdose deaths rose by 10.2 percent, from 1,914 in 2012 to 2,110 in 2013. Previously the highest number of drug-overdose deaths on record was 2012.
Opiates, such as heroin and painkillers, are responsible for more than 70 percent of those deaths.
Heroin-related deaths rose “significantly, surpassing prescription opiates among unintentional overdose deaths,” the ODH report reads. Of the 2,110 overdose deaths, 983 — 46.6 percent — were heroin-related, up from 697 heroin-related overdose deaths in 2012.
“Ohio is fighting drug abuse through many initiatives on several fronts at the state and local levels involving law enforcement, public health, addiction and treatment professionals, health care providers, educators, parents and many others,” ODH Director Richard Hodges said in a release. “Many of those initiatives were launched in 2013 or later, and it will take some time for their full impact to be reflected in Ohio’s drug-overdose deaths.
“We know that we’re doing the right things, but the data underscore the need to redouble our efforts.”