SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — Although several agencies are working to reduce drug abuse, the number of opioid overdose deaths is on track to reach the same number or more than last year, a said medical examiner Dr. Lisa Kohler.
Since 2020, the number of opiate-related deaths has increased 70%, Kohler said during an online Overdose Awareness Day press conference hosted by the office of Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro. Kohler was a member of a panel of local leaders and professionals from agencies related to addiction, treatment and recovery.
What’s alarming in Summit County, Kohler said, is an 18% increase in overdose deaths among African American women. There have been 11 deaths in 2020, 13 in 2021 and with nine deaths so far this year, the county could surpass years past.
The composition of drugs on the street is changing, she said. Heroin and fentanyl were prevalent before 2016, but since then fentanyl has become more potent and mixed with other drugs.
“So it’s a lot stronger than it was and it’s always been stronger than the heroine would be,” she said. “When we look at different types of drugs like fentanyl, most people don’t really know what they’re buying. They all look very similar. It is a white powder.
Historically, death from opioid overdoses hasn’t been as prevalent in the African-American community as it is in other communities, so conversations about these drugs need to start, said Aimee Wade, executive director of the Health Services Council. County Mental Health and Addiction (ADM Board).
“But it’s critical that we reduce the stigma, get people into treatment and understand what’s going on on the streets and the implications for different substance use,” she said.
The ADM board operates an opiate addiction task force in partnership with Kohler’s office.
The agency allocates more than $12 million to 16 agencies and provider programs working in substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery in Summit County, Wade said.
The ADM Board hotline is open 24/7 and can be reached by calling 330-940-1133. Callers are connected to treatment and services through conversations with people, she said.
The pandemic created a perfect storm for drug abuse, Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said, because when the world shut down, people lost support groups and other personal relationships.
“A.A. groups weren’t meeting, churches were closed, and a lot of things changed quickly, and didn’t get better for a group of people who really needed support,” she said.
The health department, like many Summit County agencies, is focused on harm reduction strategies, she said.
“We have to get people into treatment, but they have to live long enough to get treatment,” Skoda said.
Skoda and other panel members spoke about the importance of reducing the stigma around addiction, which could encourage more people to seek treatment.
“You know, addiction is a disease, it’s not a weakness,” she said. “It’s definitely not the character. It’s your brain. It’s chemistry.
When crack hit the African-American community, it was seen as a personal issue, not a public health crisis, so people didn’t get the help they needed, the pastor says Deante Lavender of The Remedy Church.
Today, people are less likely to seek help with opiate addiction, even though agencies tell them, “It’s okay to ask for help,” he said.
“I think that pattern or mantra is understood very well by people who give help, but not by people who actually need help,” he said.
People don’t know how deadly street drugs have become and with the increased stress of the pandemic and the rising cost of living, they are looking for stronger drugs to escape, he said. . It is the agency’s job to communicate the help that is available.
“They won’t ask, but they will show up if we offer programs,” Lavender said.
The city has equipped all of its first responders with naloxone, which has been critical in saving lives, Mayor Dan Horrigan said.
Summit County Rapid Response Teams, each consisting of a doctor, police officer and public health professional, have made about 300 visits to addresses where people have overdosed, a- he declared.
“We’re here to knock on your door on Thursdays, and maybe we can grow, and maybe we can do different things,” he said.
Mark Salchak, a certified recovery coach at IBH Addiction Recovery, said Friday will mark the first anniversary of his son’s overdose death. Salchak created Project REACH in 2014, which stands for recovery, education, responsibility, community and hope, he said.
REACH now has 1,200 members who have dedicated thousands of hours of community service and held more than 2,000 support meetings, he said. The group now has a cleanliness and sobriety rate of 84%.
Salchak compared addiction to a pizza — one slice is how long a person can spend in treatment, he said. The rest is the environment outside of this treatment, which is the process of change that leads to well-being.
“The treatment is a breakthrough,” he said. “And recovery comes after discovery.
Summit County was awarded $104 million in 2019 in a civil lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies and opioid distributors for opioid detox and recovery services.
Funds distributed to date include $7 million for addiction-related programs and $2.5 million for emergency services for overdose patients, Summit County Communications Director Greta Johnson said. , who moderated the round table. Over $2. million is supporting a program for mothers and babies through their first year, while $1 million has gone to the Akron Community Foundation to fund local drug initiatives, he said. she stated.
“I want to encourage people to encourage their family, their friends, if they’re at that deep stage of addiction, they need immediate help, they can get to the emergency room and they’ll be treated with dignity and respect,” Johnson said.
People looking for addiction support can go to the Department of Health’s website for information about Safe Summit Syringe needle exchange or to get naloxone or naloxone test strips. fentanyl to help people stay safe, Skoda said.
To view the roundtable in its entirety, visit the Summit County Executive’s Facebook page.