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Summit County agencies report positive results in efforts to combat opiate epidemic

November 29, 2018

Summit County agencies report positive results in efforts to combat opiate epidemic

AKRON, Ohio – Summit County Health and its partners have so far this year collected 8,000 pounds of unwanted pills for disposal in their efforts to combat opiate overdose deaths in Summit County, officials announced at a Thursday briefing.

A similar effort last year collected 9,000 pounds of pills, not counting the weight of the containers, said Dr. Doug Smith, chief clinical officer of Summit County’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction & mental Health Service Board.

Summit Health called the briefing to report on an array of services implemented through the Opiate & Addiction task Force, a partnership of more than 600 local and state agencies working to bring down the number of opiate overdose deaths.

In 2016, Summit Health Department received a $1.6 million grant from the Ohio Department of Health through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since then, grants have totaled more than $2.5 million to fight overdose deaths through several efforts, said Summit Health Commissioner Donna Skoda.

Groups have distributed free naloxone, a life-saving remedy administered during an overdose, and programs have been established to get users into treatment. Officials also have worked to deter doctors from prescribing opiates in the first place, she said.

D.U.M.P. boxes have been set up at locations like such as police stations for disposal of unwanted medication  and more than 3,000 Deterra Drug Deactivation bags, which dissolve pills and render them safe for residential trash disposal, have been distributed around the county, she said.

The ADM Board has established an addiction helpline that can get opiate users immediate assistance by calling 330-940-1133.   A residential-treatment setting has been so effective it no longer has a waiting list for beds, Smith said.

As a result, Summit County opiate overdose deaths have dropped from 313 in 2016 to 100 so far this year, Smith said.

Smith contrasted how opiates are prescribed today as opposed to how pain was treated in 1995. Back then, patients were more likely to be prescribed rest and Tylenol for sprains and other injuries, he said, which is a scenario the partners want to see the health-care industry return to.

However, the opiate abuse is still considered an epidemic in Summit County, he said

According to ODR Director Lance Hines, progress is being made statewide as well.

Opiate prescriptions dispensed in Ohio declined by 225 million doses between 2012 and 2017. In 2017, overdose deaths from prescription opiates not involving fentanyl declined for the third straight year.

However, prescription opiates were involved in 523 deaths in Ohio last year, he said. And opiates are considered a gateway for heroin and fentanyl.

As opiate use declines, the state is seeing a rise in the number of overdoses in cocaine and methamphetamines, Hines said.

Naloxone has been successful in Summit County in saving lives during overdoses, and many people come back to the health department for refills, Skoda said.

The Summit Health offers clinics to train individuals or groups on how to use the life-saving remedy. Clinics are from 3 to 6 p.m. on Thursdays at 1867 West Market St. in Akron and from 3 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays at the clinic at 1400 South Arlington St. in Akron.

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