Trumbull overdoses take a downward turn so far in 2018


VINDICATOR EXCLUSIVE

By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

Data for the first two months of this year show that Trumbull County overdoses – both fatal and survived – have dropped compared to 2017.

The number of people who died or survived overdoses in January and February declined from 118 in 2017 to 90 this year, the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board says.

It’s too soon to say how many have died from overdoses this year, but Trumbull County Coroner’s Office says it seems like less.

“We’re seeing fewer and fewer,” Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk said Friday of overdoses. “Let’s hope the trend continues, but no one knows what tomorrow will bring.”

April Caraway, executive director of the recovery board, said the scary thing is that the period we’re entering now – around St. Patrick’s Day – was an especially bad time for overdoses in 2017. There were 189 fatal and survived overdoses last March, second only to September 2017, when there were 215.

Unofficially there were 135 overdose deaths in 2017, which is 28 more than 2016.

The lower caseload at the coroner’s office so far this year is fortunate because Dr. Germaniuk had to be hospitalized for six days in early January after a medically related car accident.

Dr. Germaniuk was cited for failure to maintain assured clear distance after rear-ending another motorist at 11:23 a.m. Jan. 2 westbound on East Market Street at North Road. Dr. Germaniuk, 64, hit a car stopped at a red light, causing minor damage to both vehicles.

The other motorist was not injured.

Dr. Germaniuk was taken to the Trumbull Regional Medical Center to be evaluated because of a medical condition.

A trooper with the Ohio State Highway Patrol said Dr. Germaniuk was “disoriented and unsteady on his feet” when the trooper arrived. Dr. Germaniuk “stated he was sick, however did not feel fatigued prior to the crash.”

Dr. Germaniuk said Friday the illnesses he has are things such as diabetes, ulcer, hypertension and anemia, and he will not run for re-election to another term as coroner. His current term expires at the end of 2020.

He’s also hopeful that efforts to find another forensic pathologist to assist him in conducting autopsies will pay off at some point.

Judge Terry Ivanchak of Warren Municipal Court dismissed the traffic charge against Dr. Germaniuk on Jan. 10, indicating the reason was a “medical episode.”

Dr. Germaniuk’s hospitalization was one reason given for the Austin Burke aggravated-murder trial in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court being reset from Jan. 8 to March 5.

The mental health and recovery board recently voted to provide $75,000 of its funds to the county so that it can apply them to the salary of second a forensic pathologist to assist Dr. Germaniuk.

Caraway said the funding could be repeated in future years depending on circumstances, but the board feels it’s important to provide resources to make sure Trumbull County continues to conduct autopsies on all suspected overdose deaths.

Some coroner’s offices only draw blood and don’t conduct autopsies on suspected overdoses, but that is likely to prevent law enforcement from convicting the people who provide the drugs. Families also deserve to know for sure what killed their relative, Caraway said.

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