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Relationships forged during COVID-19 pandemic could be repurposed to fight addiction

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Posted at 5:49 PM, Jun 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-25 22:12:51-04

The coronavirus pandemic put a lot of lives on hold for over a year, but Butler County’s health commissioner said she sees a silver lining that might save people from another crisis – this one involving drug overdose and intervention.

In 2020, Ohio emergency rooms saw more than 32,000 overdoses. Butler County statistics show that there were 177 deaths and, according to the coroner’s office, the county is on pace to exceed that number in 2021.

In the past 30 days, Butler County had just one day without an overdose.

“Now that I’m starting to be able to think outside COVID, we’re really ramping up our efforts to reduce overdoses,” Butler County health commissioner Jenny Bailer said

She said local agencies don’t plan to use the same old attack against drug addiction.

“I have most of the important heads of agencies in my cellphone,” Bailer said. “I have their contacts right there. I might not have known them before this, but I know them now and they know me. They can call me anytime, day and night, and I’m happy for them to do that – and we’ll leverage that.”

The Hamilton County addiction coalition, consisting of 40 state, local and federal agencies, launched six years ago when Cincinnati saw its first surge of fentanyl deaths in 2016. Connections between police, fire, public health and others helped get NARCAN on the streets within a week and save lives.

While Butler County isn’t forming an official coalition, Bailer expects partnerships that brought vaccine to fairgrounds, to drive-throughs, pop-up bus clinics and more – to remain a team able to plan, forecast and better respond to addiction and social issues contributing to overdoses.

“So those relationships are not lost and I hope they won’t end,” Bailer said. “We’ll continue to work on things for the citizens of Butler County.”

She also said that local hospitals who were forced to share supplies during the pandemic formed relationships that can be redirected toward addiction and overdose problems