Middletown on pace to see double opioid overdose deaths compared to last year

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- City officials say they're doing everything they can to curb the opioid epidemic, but the numbers tell the story: Overdose deaths have doubled compared to this time last year.

In 2016, Middletown had 74 opioid overdose deaths. This year, the city's already seen 51.

Those numbers came from City Manager Doug Adkins during the 10th Heroin Summit, held Monday at Atrium Medical Center.

RELATED: Hamilton County deaths also trending higher

Fire Chief Paul Lolli blames the influx of powerful synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl and carfentanil.

"It surprises me in that at the beginning of this year, we've got a lot of good things in place," Fire Chief Paul Lolli said.

Among the new measures are a quick response team, aimed at getting people into drug treatment, and a needle exchange program, intended to reduce the risk of disease.

IN DEPTH: Heroin epidemic in the Tri-State

The quick response team has gotten 140 people into treatment so far, Fire Capt. David Von Bargen said. The cost has been about $24,000.

Lolli said he's concerned about how much Narcan is costing his department. Many residents need more than one dose to be revived after overdosing.

At the current rate, the city will spend up to $100,000 this year on Narcan, Lolli said. The city only estimated it would spend $10,000 to $15,000. He's hoping state grants will help with the costs.

Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw previously suggested people who overdose in public should be arrested and charged with inducing panic, as a way of getting them into treatment. At Monday's summit, he said he doesn't believe people who are addicted to opiates should be kept in jail.

But he also said his officers have been arresting more people selling drugs.

"We have no sympathy for dealers," he said.

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The story contains reporting from WCPO media partner the Journal-News.

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