Other counties will be releasing their 2017 overdose death numbers soon. In January, we canvassed the county coroners around the region and found that most are expecting another 20 to 30 percent increase in drug deaths in 2017, mostly from heroin, fentanyl or some other opioid.
The trend is clear: 2017 was yet another year when the death toll increased significantly.
That raises this question: Is this an epidemic or not?
Our hospital systems, wealthy and robust as they are, have been slow to take the lead on this complicated disease, addiction, which is killing people by the thousands.
Is this an epidemic or not?
In addition to Hamilton and Butler, here are preliminary 2017 overdose deaths by county:
Clermont County: 80 suspected, same as 2016 Warren County: 94 suspected in 2017, up 34 percent Campbell County: 75 suspected deaths, up 25 percent Kenton County: Did not respond Boone County: 47 suspected, down 16 percent Dearborn County: 15 suspected, up 25 percent
Source: WCPO research
The rate of death from drug overdoses in Ohio is the second-worst in the nation.
Twenty months ago, we called on Kasich to use his executive powers to declare an emergency in Ohio over the drug epidemic.
He has refused to do so, despite other legislators taking up that call and despite five other governors doing so in their states, states where the death rates from drugs aren't as bad as Ohio's.
Sandi Kuehn is the CEO of the Center for Addiction Treatment, better known as the CAT house, one of the main treatment centers in Hamilton County. She put the new funding into perspective.
A one-year national grant of $500 million, which the 21st Century CURES Act enabled, sounds like a lot. But only $45 million came to Ohio; and only $11 million was distributed to the state's 88 counties. Hamilton County was one of the leading recipients of that funding.
But "$2 million, out of $45 million, out of $500 million, is not a lot of money," Kuehn said. "There's a real disconnect between what the community thinks is supporting treatment and what is actually supporting treatment."
How many more will die before we respond with enough resources?
"There needs to be an immense expansion of drug treatment," said Dr. Judith Feinberg, a Cincinnatian and nationally known expert in addiction and disease. "There's nowhere near enough spots for the number of people who need treatment."
"If we don't pour appropriate resources into the situation, it's only going to get worse."
Think about that.
Nationally, more than 64,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, and it's going to get worse.
Is this an epidemic or not?
If you or someone you know is living with addiction and wants treatment, they can call the 24-hour Addiction Services Council helpline: 513-281-7880 in Ohio; 859-415-9280 in Northern Kentucky.