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Heroin Coalition announces annual update on fight against the epidemic

Posted at 4:16 PM, Feb 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-27 17:38:16-05

CINCINNATI — Members of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition announced some good news in their near-three-year prevention effort Wednesday. More than a dozen members of the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition gathered to release the results of an annual report, containing insight into how Hamilton County has been doing in the fight against the epidemic.

Preliminary numbers show a 23 percent drop in opioid-related deaths between 2017 and 2018. In 2017, there were 570 opioid-related deaths, compared to 440 in 2018.

"What this county has done should really be an example of what can be done across the nation," said Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, Hamilton County coroner.

But the fight isn't over, and there's still a consistent race against time to save lives in the heroin epidemic throughout the Tri-State.

"It feels like a race, because this is the only chronic illness I know that someone can have and be dead 24 hours later," said Tim Ingram, health commissioner with the Hamilton County Board of Health.

The key that sets Hamilton County's plan to combat heroin apart from other programs hinges on a four-pronged approach, which includes consideration for prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and interdiction.

Newtown Police chief Tom Synan said de-stigmatizing addiction is one critical key to long-term recovery.

"A lot of times, we are putting people in jail for using," he said. "There was no treatment, there was no support, they get back out, now they have a criminal charge in. Those that wanted to get help had problems, can't get housing, can't get a job."

He's also working directly with Homeland Security on innovative ways to track here the heroin is coming from, in accordance with the plan's step of interdiction. He says this partnership is critical, because it can help develop technology that could possibly detect and prevent heroin from getting to Cincinnati in the first place.

"Because once it reaches the street corner here in Cincinnati, it's too late," he said.