MIAMI COUNTY — In 2017, the number of overdose deaths recorded in Miami County were up over the previous year.
According to a report by Miami County Coroner Dr. William Ginn, there were 31 confirmed overdose deaths in the county in 2017 — up from 20 in 2016. Two more suspected overdose deaths are awaiting confirmation.
Overdose deaths in 2016 represented about 12 percent of all deaths in the county, Ginn reported.
Only one overdose death was attributed to fentanyl alone and 29 to a mixture of substances, which included marijuana, benzodiazepines, cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, alcohol, amphetamines, gabapentin and others.
Overall, 2017 was a “weird year,” Miami County Health Commissioner Dennis Propes said. While the number of overdose deaths was up, the number of all overdoses fell slightly.
There were 778 confirmed overdoses in 2017, just under the 786 recorded in 2016, Propes said.
The year started out on track to outpace last year’s numbers quickly, recording about 100 overdoses per month between January and April. But by May, the number of overdoses began to drop off, averaging about 40 overdoses per month by the end of 2017.
“We were on a pace that would have sent us through the roof,” Propes said. “It dropped off significantly in the latter half of the year. We are very, very, very happy with the way it started to trend down.”
Miami County Public Health tracks overdoses by the zip codes of the individuals, regardless of the hospital where they are treated.
Propes said there’s no one factor that can be credited with the downward trend in overdoses, but added that he is hopeful that the Miami County Heroin Coalition has had a positive impact. The coalition includes representatives of the local courts, law enforcement agencies, health care, mental health and churches.
Propes noted that overdose deaths are still rising, which is largely due to fentanyl being mixed in with other drugs before being sold.
“Which is pretty disheartening,” he said.
Miami County Sheriff Dave Duchak said his department has noticed a decline in heroin use, while the use of methamphetamine is on the rise.
Propes added that the coalition has also noted the change in substance abuse trends and is working to adapt its strategy of combating addiction.
“It’s like a dog chasing its tail sometimes,” Propes said. “It’s a big topic of discussion, how are we going to pivot and deal with this changing dynamic. That’s going to be a big focus this year… The coalition’s not going to stay stagnant and just focus on heroin, we’re going to evolve all our efforts.”
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