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Drug overdose figures rise for 4th consecutive year in Butler County, coroner says

82 percent involve fentanyl, heroin
Posted at 5:41 AM, Mar 06, 2018

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misspelled the Butler County coroner's name. WCPO regrets this error.

HAMILTON, Ohio -- For a fourth consecutive year, Butler County saw a rise in unintentional drug overdoses, according to Butler County Coroner Lisa Mannix.

Her office investigated a total of 232 overdoses in 2017, which was a 21 percent increase over 2016's total of 192.

"The coroner's office is the last stop on a very sad journey for somebody addicted to drugs," Mannix said, noting that overdose deaths accounted for nearly half of the cases they investigated in 2017.

Eighty-two percent of Butler County's drug overdoses in 2017 were related to fentanyl, heroin or fentanyl analogs like carfentanil, according to Mannix's office. She also noted a fourfold increase in methamphetamine use seen in all overdoses, particularly those that tested positive for fentanyl. Cocaine-related deaths stayed about the same and were also predominantly connected to cases with fentanyl.

The increase in methamphetamine is particularly concerning to the Middletown Police Department, where an officer came into contact with the drug during an investigation. She's OK, but first responders have to worry about that sort of situation on every run.

And when patients have a cocktail of those drugs in their systems, they can turn violent. Hamilton paramedics spent Tuesday learning how to use ketamine as a chemical restraint. Mark Mignery, the fire department's EMS coordinator, said the drug helps settle people down while paramedics check them out and get them to a hospital.

"Nobody likes to be stuck with a needle, but if we can inject somebody and calm them down, it ultimately will reduce our injuries and theirs as well," he said.

While the coroner said the grim figures sadden her, she holds out hope for this year because of the number of community organizations implementing initiatives to help conquer addiction.

"What I'm encouraged with is that we do have programs in place. We are trying things. But it's going to take time to see that result," Mannix said. "We have to be patient and let those services have some time to work. There's no quick fix."

Butler County Health Commissioner Jennifer Bailer and Scott Rasmus, executive director of the Butler County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board, also were on hand at Tuesday morning's news conference. Local agencies now work together to expand treatment options, add quick response teams and educate the public. Bailer also suggested more people carry overdose-reversal drug naloxone.

All those sound good to Dennis Ingram, but they can't ease the pain of losing his brother to an opioid overdose.

"Programs help, but you have to have it in your mind to change -- the people and places you hang around you. You have to take a new perspective on your life to overcome this addiction," he said.

Watch the full conference in the video player below.