10 overdose deaths in 5 days, heroin coalition reports, and nearly 60 overdoses

'We need to get fentanyl off the streets'
Posted at 3:32 PM, Jun 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-24 15:32:27-04

Ten people died from suspected drug overdoses in five days, according to the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition.

Health and law enforcement officials painted a much clearer picture Monday of the overdose activity that prompted a health alert over the weekend.

In 24 hours, from Friday to Saturday, the coalition said about 20 people overdosed.

The most recent tally is closer to 60, said coalition co-chair and Newtown Chief of Police Tom Synan.

“We had 23 or so on Friday and then Saturday was double digits and Sunday dropped down,” Synan said. “But about 60 total.”

The actual number of overdoses is likely higher, Synan said, with several deaths under investigation by the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office.

The number of overdoses, which Synan calls “frustrating,” is reminiscent of a spike in overdoses back in 2016-2017. Despite training and awareness, one problem hasn’t gone away: fentanyl.

“It’s so powerful, it’s hard to get someone from the addiction state into recovery,” he said. “It’s also hard from the first responder part because we’re dealing with this immediacy of overdoses and deaths. It’s constantly in emergency mode so we need to get fentanyl off the streets.”

He said the county would not have seen nearly 60 overdoses if fentanyl hadn’t been circulating.

“The United States has an addiction epidemic but a fentanyl crisis,” Synan said.

The Center for Addiction Treatment (CAT) in Cincinnati helps hundreds of people overcome their addictions each year. The center treated more than 1,400 patients in 2018 — most between the ages of 30 and 45.

“The majority of the people that come in have at some point faced something that scared them,” said VP of Nursing Kat Engel. “Whether that’s an overdose, the death of someone really close to them.”

CAT reports fewer people used heroin and opiates as their primary drug of choice from 2017 to 2018. It also reported an increase in the number of people seeking treatment.

“When we see these overdoses we’ll face a busy influx of people coming in — seeking treatment,” Engel said. “Social workers from the ER will be calling more. They’re trying to get people that are in the ER more into longer-term treatment.”

The weekend health alert was intended to warn hospitals in the Greater Cincinnati region, so they can adequately prepare for a surge in overdose patients.

For families struggling with addiction, Synan reminds family members to have NARCAN and to call 911 when anyone overdoses.

“Myself and other officers have stood over the bodies of those who overdosed,” he said. “You can never forget that there’s always a mother, father, brother, sister, daughter standing next to you.”

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