Overdoses are the leading cause of death in Butler County so far this year, coroner reports

HAMILTON, Ohio -- More people are dying from drug overdoses than any other cause in Butler County, according data the coroner released Wednesday.

During the first third of 2017, the coroner investigated 175 deaths in Butler County, according to a release from Dr. Lisa Mannix's office.

Of those 175 deaths, 96 were fatal drug overdoses. In April alone, 30 people died of overdoses. Mannix said her office "has never seen that many deaths of any kind in a single month."

"The numbers are staggering," she said.

The remaining 175 deaths were natural deaths (36), suicides (21), undetermined (8), other accidents (7), motor vehicle crashes (4) and homicides (3).

The release from Mannix's office also said 83 percent of the fatal overdoses involved "illicit opiates," like heroin, fentanyl or "more potent fentanyl derivitives." Most fatal overdoses involved fentanyl; of those, 11 fentanyl overdoses involved carfentanil.

Mannix said 2016 saw the most drug overdoses in Butler County's history with 192.

"If the trend for 2017 continues at its current rate, Butler County will see a 50 percent increase in total overdose deaths from 2016," the release said.

Those numbers could be worse if not for naloxone, an overdose-reversal treatment known by brand name Narcan. Many Tri-State law enforcement agencies provide Narcan to their officers; the Butler County Sheriff's Office is not one of them.

"It's unsafe to be down on your knees issuing Narcan to someone that's out," Sheriff Richard Jones said. "These people don't want you to be there."

The treatment is also expensive. In Middletown, where the city is on track to spend 10 times what it budgeted for Narcan, City Council member Dan Picard wondered if emergency services could simply stop responding to overdose calls.

Fire Chief Paul Lolli had a flat rebuke.

"We have moral obligations, legal obligations," Lolli said.

Free Narcan kits are available to Butler County residents through the health department. If you need a Narcan kit, call 513-863-1770.

Scott Rasmus, executive director of Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services, said Narcan keeps people alive so they can get into treatment.

There are other options, he said.

"Expand residential beds, expand care coordinator response through our crisis hotline, expand our mobile crisis team with a Quick Response Team member," he said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call Butler County's 24-hour Mental Health Hotline and Heroin Hopeline at 1-844-4CRISIS.

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