CINCINNATI (AP) — People combining forces to battle the opioid epidemic in southwest Ohio offered some positive developments Tuesday, coming off a bad year for overdoses, spreading disease, and drug-related deaths.
Denise Driehaus, Hamilton County Commissioner and chair of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, speaks about the state of heroin and prevention strategies in the works that include additional quick response teams, more referrals from hospital emergency rooms to treatment services and a new 16-bed engagement center, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 in Cincinnati. (Liz Dufour/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)
The Hamilton County Heroin Coalition formed three years ago by public officials, first responders and private health groups reported the "state of the heroin crisis" in the Cincinnati area. The hard-hit region is in a state that has had one of the nation's highest opioid death rates.
Coalition chairwoman and Democratic County Commissioner Denise Driehaus described the challenges of being "in the trenches" at "ground zero" of a deadly epidemic.
County Health Commissioner Tim Ingram has said he expects the final 2017 overdose death toll to top 2016's, and there is worry about rising numbers of HIV and Hepatitis C cases blamed on needle-sharing in Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. He said health authorities are holding weekly conference calls with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor HIV spread.
But coalition members also described initiatives, including more availability of overdose-reversing naloxone, additional treatment capacity, increased community engagement and the creation of a task force to trace overdose cases back to dealers.
Ingram said a needle exchange effort helped get more than 33,000 needles off the streets in January and that overdose emergencies were down in January compared to a year ago. Coalition members also are partnering with the region's hospitals, community leaders and the drugmaker Adapt Pharma for a major drive to distribute 2,000 doses of naloxone a month.
"There is reason for hope in Hamilton County," Driehaus said.